Tags: Pope | Francis | Interview | Benedict

Pope: Listen to Me, Not Media Distortions

Pope: Listen to Me, Not Media Distortions
(Yves Herman/EPA/Landov)

By Tuesday, 09 December 2014 10:58 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Both Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, have shared frank remarks with major newspapers, each going some way to clearing the air on their approach toward current issues.
In his latest interview published Sunday in the Argentine daily La Nacion, Pope Francis affirmed he wishes to relax rules on Catholic remarried divorcees to further integrate them into the church. He also dismissed accusations that he demoted an American cardinal and said he is planning on visiting Africa next year, with a possible trip to Argentina in 2016.
Speaking for 50 minutes to Argentine journalist Elisabeth Piqué at his St. Martha residence Dec. 4, he gives some clues to his thinking and approach to the papacy: first, that he doesn’t want to change as Pope but remain as he’s always been because to change at his age “would be to make a fool of yourself.”
Second, he welcomes resistance to his leadership as it’s “very healthy” to have things “out into the open.” And third, when it comes to the effect of criticism on him, he said God has bestowed on him “a healthy dose of unawareness. I just do what I have to do."
The last comment is coherent with what has been said of Pope Francis: that he pays little or no attention to what the media say and rarely reads newspapers. He alludes to this in the interview, saying “in general people don’t read about what is going on” and he urges people to read his actual words rather than media interpretations. 
Certain other passages are also worth noting. A large October synod of bishops on the subject of challenges facing the family drew heated debate and division. But Francis rejected accusations he was the cause of them, saying his job was simply to “get the ball rolling and to listen to everybody.”
He added: “The fact that in the end my address was accepted with such enthusiasm by the synod fathers shows that the Pope is not the issue, but rather the different pastoral positions are.”
Later in the interview, he said, “we benefited from the synodal process” which is a “protected space” where the Holy Spirit can work. He said those who stubbornly hold fast to positions need prayer to the Holy Spirit “to convert them.” It’s not clear here who he’s referring to, but he then added it’s important to “analyze” the family and many problems affecting it to see “how we can help.”
Asked about fears among some that “traditional doctrine will collapse” because of the synodal process, he said some are afraid “because they don’t read things properly” but pay attention to media interpretations.
His views on communion for the divorced and civilly remarried appear to be in line with those of Benedict XVI, although he clearly favors communion if a way can be found. The church currently bans them from receiving communion on grounds that marriage is indissoluble. “Communion alone is no solution,” he said.
“The solution is integration,” he added, meaning including such couples in the life of the church as far as possible, including allowing them to be godparents. But he said: “Things need to change, our standards need to change,” and remarked that “some panicked” at the synod, “and went as far as to say: Communion, never.”  
On reforming the Curia, credible sources have said a “purge” is taking place of certain personnel. But Francis rejected talk of “cleansing” and instead sees the changes as going in the direction suggested by the meetings of cardinals before the conclave. The reform is a “slow process,” he added, but he pointed to achievements already made and singled out the Institute for Religious Works (Vatican Bank) which is now “operating beautifully.”
He also said certain Vatican departments will always be headed by a cardinal, but he is open to laity and even a married couple heading others. “Spiritual reform is my great concern right now,” he said, “to change people’s hearts.”
On Cardinal Burke’s appointment as patron of the Knights of Malta, the Pope stressed that he suggested moving him “long before the synod” and because “the issue” of the Order of Malta “cropped up” and needed a “smart American” to deal with the challenge. Sources say the issue in question involves papal concerns over alleged corruption within the order, although nothing has yet come to light in this regard. Many viewed the cardinal’s reassignment from heading the church’s highest court as a demotion.
Despite his reticence toward the media, Pope Francis has given approximately a dozen interviews to the secular press, most of which have been left-leaning publications. He has yet to give a sit-down interview to media from the English-speaking world. 
Meanwhile, in an article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, also published Sunday, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told a visiting reporter that he has “very good contact” with Pope Francis and it’s very clear “who the real Pope” is.
He said it was “utter nonsense” that he tried to engage in the recent synod over divorce and remarriage, stressing that a revision of comments he made in 1972, which suggested a possibility for communion for remarried divorcees, took place in August, months before the synod.
He said there is “nothing new” in it and reiterated that although it is important such Catholics are helped, the teaching must remain untouched, and no changes must be made than are “absolutely necessary.”
The Pope emeritus also revealed he’d rather now be called just “Father Benedict” or “Father Benedetto” but that he lacked the strength to enforce such an appellation.
The article is not a comprehensive report of what Benedict said as it wasn’t a formal interview, and some aspects were left out according to the former Pope’s wishes.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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Both Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, have shared frank remarks with major newspapers, each going some way to clearing the air on their approach toward current issues.
Pope, Francis, Interview, Benedict
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 10:58 AM
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