Pope Francis touched on a wide range of topics in a 57-minute press conference on the four-hour flight back from Yerevan to Rome, ranging from his views on Brexit to whether the church should say sorry to gay people for having marginalized them, and from whether Martin Luther should be rehabilitated now, 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, and whether there are now two popes in a shared papacy.
Asked whether the church should say sorry to gays for the way it has marginalized them, as Cardinal Reinhard Marx said recently in Dublin, Francis responded in this way: “I say what I said on my first trip (from Rio), I say what the Catechism says: they must not be discriminated, they must be respected and accompanied pastorally.”
He said the question regards “a person who has this condition who has this good will, and sincerely seeks God. Who are we to judge (that person)? We must accompany them pastorally as well. That’s what the catechism says, and the catechism is very clear.” (Note: Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican spokesman, said that when the pope used the word ‘condition’ in Italian, he actually meant ‘situation.’)
In his answer, Francis acknowledged that “there traditions in some countries and cultures which have a different mentality with respect to this question.”
He added, “I believe that the church should not only say sorry, as Cardinal Marx says, it should not only say sorry to the person who is gay that it has offended, but also it should say sorry to the poor and to women who are exploited, and the children who are exploited for work.”
He went on to explain that “When I say church I mean Christians. The church is holy but we are sinners. Christians must say sorry for not having accompanied them, for not having accompanied many choices, many families.” Indeed, “Christians must say sorry and not only for this. They must ask forgiveness, not just say sorry” and also ask God’s pardon. “It is a word that we forget a lot today,” he said.
Responding to a question as to whether he thinks Brexit can lead to the dissolution of the European Union, and even to war, Francis replied: “There is already war in Europe. There is a wind of division, not only in the E.U. but also in the countries (member states) themselves. Think of Catalonia and Scotland. I don’t say divisions are bad but I say we must study well before taking a step to division.” He warned against Balkanisation.
He confessed that he “has not studied well for what reasons the U.K. took this decision.” But, he added that he has always held that “unity is superior to conflict, that there are different forms of union, that brotherhood is better than enmity and distances, and that bridges are better than mountains.”
He suggested that the E.U. should recover its original founding force, admit “a healthy disunion” and give more freedom to its member states. He warned against “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” He affirmed that there are “two key words for the European Union today: creativity and fruitfulness.”
Francis will go to Sweden at the end of October to participate in celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Asked whether this may be the right moment to recognize the gifts of the Reformation, and also to rehabilitate Martin Luther, he responded this way:
“”I believe the intentions of Luther were not wrong. Martin Luther was a reformer, maybe some methods were not right. If we read Pastor’s history of the period…the church was not a model then, there was corruption, worldliness, attachment to wealth, and so on. He (Luther) understood this and took a step forward justifying it.”
He recalled that today “Lutherans and Catholics are in agreement on the doctrine of justification” and document is “deep and rich.” He (Luther) was right, “but then he gave a medicine to the church” in discipline, in the liturgy and so on (that didn’t work well). But, Francis said, “he was not alone, there was Calvin and others too. And then there were the princes, ‘cuius regio, eius religio’. So it’s not easy to understand all that happened.”
As for the way ahead, he said, “Let us pray together, let us work together, let the theologians study together, seeking the solutions. It is a big challenge.” Moreover, he said, “let us pray and work together for the poor, for peace, for women who are exploited and so on.”
Asked about the suggestion presented by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, that there is now an extended or shared papacy with one pope active and the other contemplative, Francis gave the following response:
“Benedict is the emeritus pope. He said clearly on February 11 that I continue to help the church with prayer, and he went to the monastery to pray. I go to see him, we talk on the phone, and he sent me a note before my trip to Armenia. I have often said that it’s a grace to have in the home an emeritus pope, a wise man, one who cares, protects.”
Francis recalled his speech to the cardinals on February 28 “when he said among you is my successor and I promise him my obedience…He’s a man of his word, an upright man, and he prays for others.”
Up to his resignation there were emeritus bishops in the church, but then “with courage, with prayer, with theology, he opened this door also.” But “There is only one pope,” Francis stated.
In the press conference he also responded to other questions not mentioned here, including women, his use of the word ‘genocide’, Armenia, his upcoming visits to Georgia and Azerbaijan, and whether he intends to visit Auschwitz in silence, without speeches, when he goes there next month.
Francis agreed that the Church ought to apologize in cases of discrimination against individuals struggling with same-sex attraction, and referred to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which emphasizes the need to accompany and respect these persons.
“I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally,” the Pope said June 26 on board his return flight from Armenia to Rome.
The problem is “a person that has a condition,” he said, but, echoing his comment on the way back from Rio de Janiero in 2013, noted that that if the person “has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge?”
“We must accompany them well…this is what the catechism says, a clear catechism.”
Pope Francis spoke to some 70 journalists aboard his flight from Armenia, which he visited June 24-26.
While there, he met with the country’s president Serzh Sargsyan and visited memorial sites honoring those fallen during the Metz Yeghérn, also called the Armenian Genocide. He also met privately and signed a joint declaration with Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
In the course of the hour-long conversation with journalists, Francis touched on topics including Brexit, female deacons, Christian unity, and the role of the Pope emeritus.
He was asked his opinion on comments made by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising on Thursday at a conference in Dublin titled “The Role of Church in a Pluralist Society: Good Riddance or Good Influence?”
During the conference, held at Trinity College, the cardinal said that “the history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalize (them).”
As a Church and as a society, “we’ve also (got) to say ‘sorry, sorry,’” the cardinal said.
The question, in addition to asking for the Pope’s opinion on the cardinal’s comments, also asked for his thoughts on accusations following the Orlando shooting that Christians were partly to blame for the hatred that led to the incident.
He noted how in certain countries there is a “different mentality” to this problem, and said the Church “must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. But she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor. She must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons.”
He emphasized that “Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices, so many families … Christians must ask forgiveness for many things, not just these. Forgiveness, not just apologies,” he said, noting that while there are a lot of Christians, pastors included, who are not holy, there are “many saints” who are not seen, because true holiness is “hidden.”
He referred to the parable of the wheat and the weeds, and said we ought to pray for the Lord to take out the weeds and make the wheat grow.
“This is the life of the Church. We can’t put limits. All of us are saints, because all of us have the Holy Spirit,” he said, but also cautioned that “we are all sinners, me first of all!”
For your information we publish the New Synod questionnaire on family issues published by the Vatican. It requests episcopal conferences to choose a suitable manner of involving all components of the particular churches and academic institutions, organizations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations.
Tom Heneghan, the Reuters ‘Religion Editor’, reports on the comments of Cardinal Maradiaga, a member of Pope Francis’ kitchen cabinet’ of advisers: first published on Reuters, under the heading ‘Top papal ally urges Vatican doctrine chief Müller to loosen up‘ (read original article here).
158. The extensive material submitted to the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is presented in this Instrumentum Laboris to promote the dialogue and development which is expected to take place during the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Clearly, the richness of what is contained in the responses and observations goes beyond what has been reported in these pages, which are intended to provide an initial reference point in synod discussion. To come to some idea of how to respond to the new demands in the People of God, the following three main areas are under discussion in the Church: how the Gospel of the Family can be preached in the present-day; how the Church’s pastoral care programme for the family might better respond to the new challenges today; how to assist parents in developing a mentality of openness to life and in upbringing their children.
Fr Sean McDonagh, a member of the leadership team of the ACP, recently met with Pope Francis.
Maybe the nuncio to Ireland and Irish bishops might do likewise on a regular basis.
Tony Flannery reports that a letter has been sent to Pope Francis on behalf of reform movements in many countries, the ACP included.
Jesuit Thomas Reese writes a fairly gloomy report in NCR on the possible outcome of the synod.
“The bishops are currently trapped in the old theology they learned in the seminary. They are afraid of new ideas and are not consulting with theological experts who could show them other options. As a result, it is unlikely that new pastoral approaches will be coming forth from this synod.”
“Never in my lifetime have I heard of bishops and cardinals being so disrespectful of a pope, challenging his organization of this synod, even a few referring to him as a Protestant and threatening a fractured church if he goes against their wishes.”