Francis: “I’ll tell you about a time they tried to bribe me”

Francis speaks to journalists on the papal flight

(©Ansa)

(©Ansa) Francis speaks to journalists on the papal flight

In his interview with journalists on the return flight from Manila Francis talked about an experience he had in Buenos Aires, when officials asked for a bribe in exchange for funds for the poor. He mentioned gender as an example of the “colonisation of peoples”, recalling dictatorships’ attempts at indoctrination. He announced forthcoming trips to Africa and Latin America and repeated the example of the punch. While talking about falling birth rates he also pointed out that being Catholic does not mean breeding “like rabbits”. He said he was touched by the gestures of the Filipinos. He recommended Benson’s “Lord of the World” as a book worth reading

ANDREA TORNIELLI
on the flight from Manila to Rome  Taken from Vatican Insider
Francis had tears in his eyes as he described the striking gestures of Filipinos during his visit. When asked what he meant by the phrase “ideological colonisation” of the family, he responded with a concrete example of a first hand experience he had in Argentina when the condition for receiving funding for schools was linked to the introduction of textbooks on the gender theory. In his interview with journalists on the return flight from Manila to Rome Francis returned to the issues of freedom of expression and provocation, reiterating that violence is unjustified but calling on people to exercise the human virtue of prudence. Speaking about corruption, he recalled an incident he experienced first hand. He announced that he would be visiting Latin America and Africa in the coming months. He talked about contraception and responsible parenthood denouncing the neo-Malthusian theory in favour of birth control. But regarding child birth he also said: “Some think that being a good Catholic means breeding like rabbits.” At the end of the press conference which lasted over an hour, Francis wished the dean of the Vatican press corps, Televisa’s Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki, happy birthday. He presented her with a gift and offered her and all journalists on board a cake to celebrate.

 

What the Filipinos taught me

“I was moved by their gestures, they were not formal gestures that followed protocol, they were genuine gestures that came from the heart (the Pope said this with tears welling up in his eyes, Ed.). Faith, love, family, the future, in that gesture fathers made of lifting their children up so the Pope could bless them. They lifted their children up, a gesture you don’t see in other parts of the world. It was as if they were saying: this here is my treasure, this is my future, this is what makes working and suffering worth it. A unique gesture that came from the heart. The second thing that struck me a great deal was their genuine enthusiasm, their joy, their happiness, their ability to celebrate. Even in the rain… Mothers who brought their sick children… So many disabled children, disabilities you really notice, they didn’t hide their children, they brought them with them so they could be blessed: this is my child, it’s like this but it’s mine. All mothers do this but it was the way in which it was done that struck me… A maternal and paternal gesture. A people who know how to suffer and are able to get back on their feet and get on with life.”

 

Poverty in Manila and Colombo

“The poor are the victims of this culture of waste. Today people are cast aside, the caste system comes to mind… In my diocese, the diocese of Buenos Aires there was a new area called Portomadero and not far from there were the villas miserias. In the first part there were 36 luxury restaurants, in the other part there was hunger.  Both were right next to each other. We apparently tend to get used to this… This is us and that is where the oucasts are. This is what poverty is and the Church needs to increasingly lead the way in rejecting all kinds of worldliness. For us, the consecrated, bishops, priests, nuns and lay people, worldliness is the gravest sin. It is an ugly thing to see a consecrated person, a person of the Church, a nun adopt a wordly attitude. This is not the way of Jesus, of Jesus’ Church. It is an NGO that calls itself a Church, it is something else. The Church is Christ who died and was resurrected for our salvation and the testimony of Christians who follow Christ. Sometimes we priests and lay people cause a scandal, the way of Jesus is difficult. It is true that the Church needs to strip itself bare.  I didn’t think about state terrorism, what you said made me think that this kind of waste can also be seen as a form of state terrorism. There really are no caresses: it is like saying: ‘no, not you, get out…’. Here in Rome there was a homeless person who had stomach ache. When he went to the hospital, they gave him an aspirin. He went to a priest who took one look at him and was moved. ‘I’ll take you to the hospital’ he said, ‘but when I explain what you have you pretend you’re fainting’. This is what he did, like an artist, he pulled it off well… It was peritonitis. Had he gone alone he would have been sent away and left to die. That parish priest was clever and gave him the right help, his gesture was worlds away from being worldly. Can this be considered a form of terrorism? It can be…”

 

The ideological colonisation of the family

“I will only give the example of an experience I had. Twenty years ago, in 1995, a minister of public education asked for a big loan to build schools for the poor (in rural zones, Ed.). They granted the loan on one condition: that schools used a good textbook to teach children. A quality educational school text book on gender theory. This woman needed the money and this was the condition… She was smart; she agreed and she had another book prepared (the second text book taught a different theory and the two books were issued together, Ed.). This is what ideological colonisation is: ideologies enter a population when they have no relevance to that population or they enter groups within that population but they are not with the people and they colonise them with an idea that aims to change a certain mentality or system. During the Synod, African bishops complained that certain loans are only given under specific conditions. The needs of a population are seen as an opportunity to move in and take advantage of children. But this is nothing new. Last century dictatorships did just this, they went in with their doctrine: think of the Hitler Youth… People must not lose their freedom, all peoples have their cultures, their history. When ideas are imposed by colonising empires, the aim is to take away a peoples’ identity… All peoples need to protect their own identity and not succumb to ideological colonisation. There is a book that was written in London in 1903, called “Lord of the World”, by Benson: I recommend it to you. If you read it you’ll really understand what I’m talking about.”

 

Openness to life

Openness to life is a condition for the sacrament of marriage. Paul VI studied this, he looked at what could be done to help, so many cases, so many problems… important problems that affect family love. But there was something else. Paul VI’s rejection (he rejected contraception in the Humanae Vitae encyclical, Ed.) was not just in reference to individual cases: he told confessors to be understanding and merciful. He was looking at a universal neo-Malthusianism which was calling on world powers to control birth rates: births in Italy dropped to less than 1% and the same in Spain. This does not mean Christians must have one child after the other. I scolded a woman who was on her eighth pregnancy and had had seven cesarians. ‘Do you want your children to become orphans?’ You must not push it with God… What I wanted to say was that Paul VI was a prophet.”

 

More on contraception

“I believe that three children per family, from what the experts say, is the key number for sustaining the population. The key word here is responsible parenthood and each person works out how to exercise this with the help of their pastor… Sorry, some people think that in order to be good Catholics we have to breed like rabbits, right? Responsible parenthood: this is why there are marriage support groups in the Church with people who are experts on such issues; and there are pastors and I know that there are many acceptable solutions that have helped with this. And another thing: for poor people children are a treasure, prudence is needed here too, it is true. Responsible parenthood is important but also recognising the generosity of that father or mother who see their child as a treasure.”

 

Freedom of expression and reacting to insults

“In theory we can say that a violent reaction to an offence, to a provocation, is not acceptable, it is not good. We can do what the Gospel says, which is to turn the other cheek. In theory we can say that we understand what freedom of expression is. In theory we all agree. But we are human and there is prudence which is a virtue of human coexistence. I cannot provoke and insult a person continuously because I run the risk of making them angry, I risk receiving an unjust reaction. But it is human. What I am saying is, is that freedom of expression needs to take human nature into account and this means it must be prudent, which is another way of saying it must be polite. Prudence is the human virtue that regulates our relationships. A violent reaction is always bad. But let us hold our horses; because we are human, we risk provoking others. This is why freedom must go hand in hand with prudence.”

 

Upcoming visits to Africa, Latin America and the US

“Africa: the plan is to go to the Central African Republic and Uganda. I think i twill be toward the end of the year. This visit comes a bit late because of the Ebola problem. Holding big meetings is a big responsibility because of the risk of contagion. But this isn’t a problem in these two countries. US: the three cities are Philadelphia for the meeting of families, New York for the visit to the UN and Washington. I would like to go to California for the canonization of Junípero Serra but I think there is an issue with time, I would need two more days. I think I will do the canonisation in Washington, he is a figure of national importance. Entering the US from the Mexican border would be a great gesture of fraternity but going to Mexico without visiting Our Lady (of Guadalupe, Ed.), that is a tragedy… I think those are the only three US cities I will be visitng. The Latin American countries I am scheduled to visit this year are: Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. Next year, God willing, I will go to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.”

 

Political corruption

“Corruption is very common in today’s world and corrupt attitudes easily worm their way into the institutions because there are many roles within these, many bosses, many deputies… Corruption means taking away from the people. A corrupt person who does corrupt business or governs in a corrupt manner or gets together with others to do corrupt business, steals from the people. The victims are those who live in poverty… Corruption is not closed within itself: it goes out and kills. Now corruption is a global problem. In 2001 I asked the head of the president’s cabinet at the time the following question: ‘tell me, how much of the aid you send inside the country – both the containers, food aid and clothes – reaches its destination?’  The clean man immediately answered: ‘35%’. That was in 2001, in my country.”

 

Corruption in the Church: they tried to bribe me

“When I speak about the Church I like to speak about the baptised, the faithful and all of us are sinners. But when we speak about corruption, we speak about corrupt people or institutions of the Church that become corrupt. And cases like this do exist. I remember one time in 1994, I had just been appointed auxiliary bishop in the Flores district when two ministry officials came up to me. They said to me: “You are really in need with these poor people… if you want we can help by giving you 400 thousand pesos (400 thousand dollars at the time)… I listened carefully because when you’re offered such a large sum it’s enough to make even a saint think twice. Then they said to me: ‘To make this donation, we will pay a deposit and then you give us half of the money’. At that moment I thought: do I insult them and kick them where the sun don’t shine or do I act dumb? I acted dumb. I said to them: ‘you know… those of us who work in the vicariates don’t have access to the account, you have to pay a deposit to the archbishopric with a receipt.’They left. I thought to myself: if these two landed without asking for a runway (a Spanish expression which roughly translates as “came uninvited” Ed.) – this is a horrible thought – that’s because someone else said yes… Let us remember this: sinners, yes; but corrupt, never! We must ask for forgiveness for those Catholics, those Christians who cause a scandal because of their corruption.  There are, however, many saints and saints who are sinners but not corrupt. Let us look at the holy Church.”

 

China and the audience the Dalai Lama was denied

“According to Secretariat of State protocol, heads of state or leaders of that level are not usually received when they are attending an international meeting in Rome. During the FAO meeting I did not receive anyone. It is not true that I did not receive the Dalai Lama because of fear of China. He requested an audience, we have ties but the reason was not a rejection of him as a person or fear of China. We are open and we want peace with everyone. What is the state of relations? The Chinese government is civil, we are also civil, we do things step by step. We don’t know yet. They know I am willing to receive them or to go there. They know it.”

 

 

Powerful moments that marked the papal visit

“The most powerful moment was the mass in Tacloban: seeing all of God’s people there, praying after the catastrophe, thinking of my sins and of those people was an intense feeling. It was a very intense moment. I felt very humbled during the mass there. I almost lost my voice. I don’t know what happened to me, perhaps it was the emotion. The gestures were powerful too, the gratitude of the fathers who lifted their children up for a blessing, that was enough for them… And I thought about all the expectations I have; that I want this and I want that. About the massive presence of faithful: I felt humbled, it was the people of God, the Lord was there, God says to us: remember you serve these people eh… they are the protagonists.”

 

Women in the Church

“When I say it is important for women to have a more prominent role in the Church, it is not just to give them a role, secretary of a dicastery…no, it is so that they can tell us how they perceive and see reality, because women look at reality with a different, a greater richness.”


About The Voice Of Bombay's Catholic Laity

Bombay Laity Ezekiel’s Chapter 3 Task as Watchman 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[b] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
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