Pope Francis on June 2, 2019, talked with reporters on the return flight to Rome after his May 31 – June 2 apostolic journey to Romania. The discussion was moderated by the Director “ad interim” of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti.
Following is the ZENIT translation of the press conference provided by the Vatican:
Good evening! Welcome, Holy Father, welcome. The return flight . . . Holy Father, the motto of this trip was “Let Us Walk Together,” but also “we fly together,” because I think we truly flew so much and also the commitment, the exhaustion . . . In the address to the foreign press a few days ago, you concluded saying: I see in Apostolic Journeys, in particular, your effort.” Here is the effort, the passion, the commitment of colleagues that have recounted this trip . . . Today is the Day of Social Communications, dedicated, as you know, to us as journalists, operators of communication, on the theme “We are members of one another.” Here, Holy Father, I know that before the questions you want to give us a brief reflection on this Day dedicated to us.
Good evening. Thank you so much for your company! As Gisotti said, today, this Day, calls you, recalls our thought to you. You work in communications, you are operators — as Alessandro said –, but first of all you are, you must be, witnesses of communication. Today, in general, communication goes backward; contact goes forward: to have contacts and not achieve communication. And you, by vocation, are witnesses of communicating. It’s true; you must make contacts, but not stop there, but go forward. I hope you will go forward in this vocation, in this witness of communicating, because this time is in such need of fewer contacts and more communication. Thank you. Congratulations on your Day. And now, go ahead with the questions.
So, Holy Father, as is the tradition, the first two questions are addressed by the media of the country that we went to. Diana Dumitrascu of Romanian television TVR begins. Please:
Holy Father, I thank you for your visit to Romania. Holiness, you know that millions of our fellow countrymen have emigrated in the last years. What is your message for a family that leaves its children to go abroad to work, for the purpose of ensuring a better life for them? Thank you.
First of all, this makes me think of the family’s love because to detach themselves in twos and threes isn’t a good thing. There is always the nostalgia of meeting again. However, to detach oneself so that the family isn’t lacking anything is an act of love. In yesterday’s Mass, we heard the last petition of a lady who worked abroad to help the family. Such a detachment is always painful. But, why do they go? Not to engage in tourism, but out of necessity — necessity. And often, it’s not because they don’t find work in the country . . . Often it’s the result of a global policy that affects this. I know that it’s the story of your country, after the fall of Communism . . . then so many foreign businesses closed to open abroad to earn more. To close a business today is to leave people on the street. And this is also a general, global injustice, a lack of solidarity. It’s a suffering. How to fight it? By trying to open sources of work. It’s not easy; it’s not easy in the present global situation of finances, of the economy. However, think that you have an impressive level of birth: one doesn’t see here the demographic winter that we see in Europe. It’s an injustice not to be able to have sources of work for so many young people. And I hope that this situation will be resolved, which doesn’t depend only on Romania, but on the global financial order, on this consumerist society, of wanting to have more, of wanting to earn more . . . And so many people remain there, alone. I don’t know; this is my answer: an appeal to global solidarity in this moment in which Romania has the presidency of the European Union, to look at this a bit . . . Thank you.
Now Cristian Micaci of Radio Maria-Romania will ask you a question.
Holy Father, as the Director also said before, there was so much talk in these days of “walking together.” Now, at your departure, I would like to ask you: what do you advise those of us of Romania? What should be the relations between the Confessions, particularly between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church — the Catholic minority and the Orthodox majority — the relationship between the various ethnic groups and the relationship between the political world and the civil society?
In general, I would say the relationship of the extended hand when there are conflicts. Today a developing country with a high level of births, such as you have, with this future, can’t permit itself to have enemies within. A process of drawing ever closer should be undertaken: between the different ethnic groups, the different religious Confessions, especially the two Christian ones . . . This is the first thing: always the extended hand, listening to the other. With Orthodoxy: you have a great Patriarch, a man of great heart and a great scholar. He knows the mysticism of the Desert Fathers, spiritual mysticism, he studied in Germany . . . He is also a man of prayer. It’s easy to approach Daniel, it’s easy because I feel he is a brother and we spoke as brothers. I won’t say: “But, because you . . . ,” and he won’t say: “but because you . . . “ We go together! — always having this idea: ecumenism isn’t coming to the end of the game, of the discussions; ecumenism is done walking together, walking together, praying together — the ecumenism of prayer. In history we have the ecumenism of blood: when they were killing Christians they didn’t ask: “Are you Orthodox? Are you Catholic? Are you Lutheran? Are you Anglican?” No. ”You are Christian, and the blood was mixed — an ecumenism of witness, it’s another ecumenism — of prayer, of blood, of witness. Then, the ecumenism of the poor, as I call it, which is to work together, in what we can; to work to help the sick, the infirm, the people that are on the margin of minimum wellbeing: to help. Matthew 25: this is an ecumenical program, no? To walk together, and this is already Christian unity. However, we must not wait for theologians to agree to come to the Eucharist. The Eucharist is done every day with prayer, with the memory of the blood of our martyrs, with the works of charity and also loving one another. There was — there is — a good relationship in a city of Europe between the Catholic Archbishop and the Lutheran Archbishop. The Catholic Archbishop was supposed to come to the Vatican on Sunday evening and he called to say he’d arrive on Monday morning. When he arrived, he said to me: ‘I’m sorry, but yesterday the Lutheran Archbishop had to go to a meeting and he asked me: will you ‘come to my Cathedral and carry out the worship.’” There is fraternity! It’s so great to come to this! And the Catholic did the homily. He didn’t do the Eucharist, but yes the homily. This is fraternity. When I was in Buenos Aires, I was invited by the Scottish Church to give several homilies and I went there, and did the homilies . . . It can be done! We can walk together. Unity, brotherhood, extended hand, looking at one another with kindness, not speaking badly of others . . . We all have defects, all of us. However, if we walk together, we leave the defects aside: those who criticize them are as “old bachelors” . . . Thank you.
Xavier Lenormand of French Media.
Holiness, my question refers somewhat to the earlier one. On the first day of this trip, you went to the Orthodox Cathedral for a beautiful but also a somewhat hard prayer of the Our Father. <It was> somewhat hard because although Catholics and Orthodox were together, they didn’t pray together. You just spoke of the ecumenism of prayer. So my question is: Holiness, what did you think about when you remained in silence during the Our Father in Romanian? And what are the next concrete steps to be taken in this walking together? Thank you, Holiness.
I will share a confidence with you. : I did not remain in silence, I prayed the Our Father in Italian. And you <did> also? OK. And, during the prayer of the Our Father, I saw that the majority of people, whether in Romanian or Latin, were praying. The people go beyond us, the heads: we must engage in diplomatic balances to ensure that we go together. There are customs, diplomatic rules, which it’s good to keep so that things aren’t ruined; however, the people pray together. We too, when we are alone, pray together. This is a witness. I have the experience of prayer with so many, so many Lutheran, Evangelical and also Orthodox Pastors. The Patriarchs are open. Yes, we Catholics also have closed people, who don’t want to, and say: “No, the Orthodox are schismatics.” These are old things. The Orthodox are Christians. However, there are Catholic groups that are somewhat fundamentalist: we must tolerate them, pray for them so that the Lord and the Holy Spirit soften their heart somewhat. But I prayed. The two of us prayed. I didn’t look at Daniel, but I believe he did the same.
Thank you, Holy Father. Manuela Tulli of ANSA will now ask you a question.
Good evening, Holy Father. We were in Romania, a country that showed itself European. In these recent elections, some political leaders, such as our Vice-Premier Matteo Salvini, carried out an electoral campaign showing religious symbols: in the rallies, we saw Rosaries, crosses, consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I want to know what impression this made on you and if it’s true, as some indiscretions state, that you don’t want to meet our Vice-Premier.
First — I’ll begin with the second question — I haven’t heard that any one of the [Italian] government, except the Premier, asked for an audience. No one. To ask for an audience, one must speak with the State Secretariat if one wants an audience. Premier Conte requested it and it was given, as the protocol indicates. It was a good audience with the Premier, of an hour or more, perhaps. He is an intelligent man, a professor who knows what to talk about. In regard to the Vice-Premier, I haven’t received a request, and from other Ministers either. Yes, I have received the President of the Republic.
Second, in regard to these images, I have said so many times that I read two newspapers: the “newspaper of the party” namely, “L’Osservatore Romano,” I read this one and it would be good if you read it, because there are keys of interpretation that are very interesting. And also things that I say are there. And then, “Il Messaggero,” which I like, “Il Messaggero” because it has big headlines: I leaf through it and sometimes I pause . . . and I don’t delve into propaganda news, as one party or another has engaged in electoral propaganda . . . truly.
There is a third element, in this I admit I’m ignorant: I don’t understand Italian politics. It’s true; I must study it, I don’t understand it. I will give my opinion on attitudes of an electoral campaign, of one of the parties, without information, so it would be very imprudent on my part. I pray for all so that Italy will go forward so that Italians are united and loyal in their commitment. I’m also Italian because I’m the son of Italian emigrants: I’m Italian by blood, and my brothers all have Italian citizenship. I didn’t want to have it because, at the time they acquired it, I was a Bishop, and I said: “No, the Bishop must be of the homeland,” and I didn’t want to get it. And that’s why I don’t have it. In the politics of many countries, there is corruption everywhere. Tomorrow don’t say: “the Pope said that Italian politics is corrupt,” no. I have said that one of the sicknesses of politics everywhere is to slide into corruption. It’s a universal fact. Please, don’t have me say what I didn’t say. And I once explained how political pacts are made: let us imagine a meeting of nine businessmen at the table… They discuss so as to come to an agreement on the development of their businesses and in the end, after hours and hours and hours, and coffee, coffee, and coffee, they come to an agreement. They take the verbal, do the resume, read it . . . Agreed? Agreed. While they have it printed, they have a whiskey to celebrate it and then they begin to shift the papers to sign the agreement. At the moment they shift the papers, under the table, he and I . . . I do another under the table. This is political corruption, which is done somewhat everywhere. We must help politicians to be honest, not to carry out campaigns with dishonest banners — calumny, defamation, scandals . . . And, so often, sowing hatred and fear: this is terrible. Politics, a politician must never, never sow hatred and fear – only hope – just, exacting, but sowing hope, because he must lead the country there, and not make it afraid. I don’t know if I’ve answered. However, on the particulars of the politicians’ conduct, I don’t know.
Holy Father, Eva Fernandez, journalist of Cope will now ask you a question.
Holy Father, yesterday, during the meeting with young people and families, you stressed again the importance of the relationship between grandparents and young people, so that young people have roots to go forward and grandparents can dream. You don’t have a close family but you have said that Benedict XVI is like a grandfather; he is like having a grandfather at home . . .
Do you continue to see him as a grandfather?
More so! Every time I go to visit him I feel him so. And I take his hand and make him speak. He speaks little, slowly, but with the same profundity as ever. Because Benedict’s problem is his knees, not his head: he has great lucidity and, hearing him speak, I become strong, I feel the “juice” of the roots that comes to me and helps me go on. I feel this Tradition of the Church, which isn’t a museum piece, no, the Tradition. The Tradition is like the roots, which give you the juice to grow. And you won’t become like the roots, no. You will flower, the tree will grow, it will bear fruits and the seeds will be roots for others. The Tradition of the Church is always in movement. In an interview that Andrea Monda did a few days ago in “L’Osservatore” — you read “L’Osservatore,” no? — there was a situation that pleased me greatly, of musician Gustav Mahler, and, speaking of traditions, he said: “Tradition is the guarantee of the future and not the custodian of ashes.” It’s not a museum. Tradition doesn’t guard ashes, the nostalgia of fundamentalists, to turn to ashes, no. Tradition is the roots that guarantee that the tree will grow, flower and bear fruit. And I repeat that piece of the Argentine poet, which I so like to quote: “All that the tree has in flowering comes to it from what is underground.” I’m happy because, at last, I made reference to that grandmother [with her new-born grandson in her arms]: it was a gesture of “complicity,” and with those eyes . . . I was so moved at that moment that I didn’t react and then the popemobile went on; in sum, I could have said to this grandmother to come in front, to have this gesture seen . . . And I said to the Lord Jesus: “it’s too bad, but You are able to resolve it.” And our good Francesco [photographer], when he saw the communication I had with the eyes with that grandmother, took the photograph and now it’s public” I saw it this afternoon in “Vatican Insider.” These are the roots, and this will grow. It won’t be like me, but I give of my own. When grandparents feel that they have grandchildren who will carry history forward, they begin to dream — when grandparents don’t dream they get depressed –; Ah! there is a future! And, encouraged by this, young people begin to prophesy and make history. This is important.
Thank you, Holy Father.
I think we yet have room for a question: Lucas Wiegelmann of Herder Korrespondenz . . .
I read this magazine in Buenos Aires . . .
Holy Father, during these days you talked so much about fraternity among peoples and walking together, something we’ve already heard. However, we see in Europe that the number is growing of those that don’t want fraternity but egoism and isolation; they prefer to walk alone. In your opinion, why is this so and what must Europe do to change this? Thank you.
Excuse me if I quote myself, I do so without vanity, for usefulness. I spoke on this problem in two [three] addresses: that at Strasbourg; that which I gave when I received the Charlemagne Prize; and then in the address to all the Heads of State and Government in the Regia Hall: all were there for the anniversary of the Pacts for the foundation of the European Union. I said all that I think in these addresses. And there is also another address, that I didn’t give but the Mayor did, the Burgermeister of Aachen: this is a jewel, your jewel, German. A jewel. Read it and you will find things. Europe must converse. Europe must not say: “We are united, now we say to Brussels: you arrange yourselves, you go forward.” No. We are all responsible for the European Union, all of us. And this circulation of the presidency isn’t a courteous gesture, such as dancing the minuet: it’s your turn, it’s your turn. No. It’s a symbol of the responsibility that each one of the countries has in regard to Europe. If Europe doesn’t look thoroughly at future challenges, Europe will wither. At Strasbourg, I permitted myself to say that I feel that Europe is ceasing to be “Mother Europe” and is becoming “Grandmother Europe.” It has grown old. It has lost the desire to work together. Perhaps, in a hidden way, some might ask the question: “But will this not be the end of a 70-year-old adventure?” It’s necessary to take up again the spirit of the Founding Fathers: to take it up again. Europe needs itself, to be itself, to have its own identity, its own unity, and overcome with this, with the many things that good politics offers, to surmount divisions and borders. We are seeing borders in Europe. This doesn’t do good; cultural border doesn’t do good either. It’s true that every country has its own culture and must guard it, but with the spirit of the polyhedron: there is globalization where the culture of all is respected, but all united. But, please, Europe must not allow itself be overcome by pessimism or ideologies because Europe is attacked at present not with cannons or bombs, but with ideologies: ideologies that aren’t European, which come from outside or are born in small European groups, but they aren’t big. Think of Europe, divided and belligerent, of 1914 and of 1932-33 until 1939, when war broke out: but let’s not go back to this, please! Let us learn from history. Let’s not fall into the same hole. The other day I told you that it’s said that the only animal that falls twice into the same hole is man: the donkey never does!
I don’t know what else to say to you . . . But read that address of the Mayor, of the Burgermeister of Aachen: it’s a jewel.
Thank you, Holy Father. Thank you for your availability at the end of three very demanding days, also for these five trips, one after the other, in this first part of the year, so rich in moments, so different from the meetings you had. Thank you.
Now, two things: in connection with the climate [of the meteorological conditions]. Yesterday I had to go by car: two hours and 40 minutes. It was a grace of God: I saw a most beautiful landscape, as I’d never seen before. I went across the whole of Transylvania: it’s a beauty! I’ve never seen something like it. And today, to go to Blaj, the same thing: a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing is the scenery of this country! I also thank the rain, which made me travel like this and not by helicopter, to have more contact with the reality.
And the second thing: I know that some of you are believes, others not so much, but I say to the believers: pray for Europe, pray for Europe, for unity, that the Lord may give us the grace. To non-believers: wish for goodwill, a wish from the heart, the desire that Europe return to be the dream of the Founding Fathers. Thank you. Thank you so much, and a good end to your “celebration” [the World Day of Social Communications].
Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester