Journalists have become regular guests of Pope Francis at the Domus Santa Marta. Do these people really tell the truth about what goes on in the Vatican?
«His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy”.» Matthew 25, 21.
Lately in Santa Marta there is a coming and going of journalists and cameramen who seem to exchange the baton in an endless relay race. Yet the Domus Sanctae Marthae had been commissioned by John Paul II for very different purposes. After granting several interviews to the British news agency Reuters, Francesco speaks to TelevisaUnivision. Interviewed by Mexican journalists María Antonieta Collins and Valentina Alazraki, the Pope said: “I have no intention of resigning. If this were to happen I would like to be called bishop emeritus of Rome.”
Francis reported: “I love Cuban people very much. I have had good relationships with the Cuban people and I must confess that I have a reasonable relationship with Raúl Castro. I was happy when that small agreement was reached with the United States, sought after, at the time, by President Obama and accepted by Raúl Castro, it was a step forward, but now, unfortunately, it has stopped”.
“We are currently conducting some talks to close the gap. Cuba is a symbol, Cuba has a great history, I feel very close, even to the Cuban bishops”, he clarified. He referred to the media, after being asked what he thinks when he is called a “communist.” “Some groups in the media are very ideologized and tend to do the same when considering the position of others. Sometimes they cannot distinguish between communism and Nazism, populism and popularism. When they accuse me of communism, I answer, “that is an old-fashioned concept.” Those accusations have passed, I consider them outdated. They are made up by small ideological groups,” the Pope said.
Francis, then, talked about the war and warned about the risk of the world rushing towards a third world war, stating that “savage wars of destruction” such as the one raging in Ukraine have been going on for years “for a long time we have been living a low intensity Third World War, with conflicts everywhere, the war in Ukraine touches us because we live closely”, said Bergoglio.
On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Pontiff said he prefers to talk about the victims rather than the culprits, “the country has been attacked” and we read about all the horrible things happening and we know who is perpetrating them.” But he did not want to make explicit references to Russia or Putin. He said he was in favor of “leaving the door open to a person’s conscience” and smiled when asked to comment on those who
Faccuse him of being a “Philistine.” “I laugh” the Pope said. “There is no limit to people’s ability to form an opinion” although, he complained, many of these opinions are based on the latest Twitter feed. Francis also spoke about to the drama of the people in Yemen and Syria, to the lost lives of 30,000 soldiers, to the boys who died in the Normandy landings, to the war conflicts “that are imposed upon us”, confirming that “we have lost our awareness of the war”.
But “countries continue to manufacture weapons”, the Pope lamented, stressing that war “enslaves”, dehumanizes, and that, according to the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the use and possession of nuclear weapons is immoral and we cannot play with death”. In other sections of the interview, he spoke about the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Europe, the scandals of child abuse in the Church, abortion, as well as not shying away from questions about his state of health or rumors of possible resignation.
With regard to his possible resignation, Francis said: “I have no intention of resigning. Not at the moment.” When asked by journalist Collins who pointed out to him how his pontificate has been long, the Pope said that he thought of a short pontificate “but I had not realized it and nine years have already passed”.
The knee continues to create some problems for the Pontiff, even in this interview he reported that it hurts but it seems to be improving.
However, the Pope said, “if I see that I am not capable, that I am sick or that I have become an obstacle”, I hope to be “helped” to make the decision to retire. He reported that he had “great sympathy” for the “goodness” of Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013 and leads a life of retreat, reading, studying and writing at the age of 95.
Answering a question about the possibility of having regulations relating to the figure of the Pontiff emeritus, Bergoglio noted that “history itself will help to regulate better”, “the first experience went very well”, because Benedict XVI “is a holy and discreet man”.
For the future, however, “it is better to clarify things better”, “explain exactly what should be done”. Regarding his possible future resignation, he replied that he would not return to Argentina: “I am the bishop of Rome, in that case I would be the bishop emeritus of Rome”. And on the possibility of retiring to St. John Lateran, he replies that yes, “I might just do that”.
Finally, on the scandals of sexual abuse of minors, he was very explicit in stating that “the facts have been revealed” after the scandal of pedophile priests in the State of Pennsylvania (USA) and that “today the Church has become increasingly aware”, “has chosen to uncover rather than be accomplices” of these crimes, Francis assured.
As for Francis’ statements regarding the figure of Pope Emeritus, it must be remembered that the Pope often emphasizes that he is first bishop of Rome and then Pope. Generally speaking, it must be emphasized that the Pope cannot be distinguished from the bishop of Rome and, therefore, if there were a Pontiff emeritus he would be bishop emeritus of Rome and Pope emeritus. The two cannot be separated. The case, however, as Francis has clarified, will not concern him. To resign, a Pope must be humble, aware of his own limitations and be aware of the good of the Church. This is what makes Benedict XVI a fundamental stone, both theologically and philosophically, which will no longer be possible to ignore in the future. A special thank to Benedict must therefore go for his humble and always clear service to the Church of Christ and not only for his “goodness”. In recent years, this image of Ratzinger as a good grandfather has become a little bit sickening.
As for the juridical question, it will be up to the Pope and not to others, to legislate on the figure of the Pope emeritus. But this cannot happen now because, although many have forgotten the principle that the law must first come into force and then can be applied, one cannot intervene in the life of Benedict XVI while he is living this condition. Francis, then, would certainly not return to Argentina, not because he is bishop of Rome but because in his country they have shown on several occasions that they do not want him. How many bishops emeritus decide to end up in their native country? Many. If you want to “normalize” the figure of the Pope, it must be done without hypocrisy. if in the numerous apostolic journeys Francis has never thought of returning home, there must be a reason. Even St. John Lateran is not the right place. Precisely because that is the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, we have never seen a bishop emeritus who lives in the see.
One can only agree with Francis regarding the “confidentiality” of Benedict XVI. We are certain that if things had been reversed, the interferences on the Pontificate would have been numerous. But this also happens in dioceses when some bishops emeritus make life impossible for the bishop in office. We should think about the spirituality of people, the ability to understand that roles are services to which one must not remain attached for the sake of it. For this reason we must think about legislating on the subject, but it is certainly not the task of lay professors or even doctoral students who do not even know the difference between one Pope and another. These are issues that must be addressed by the College of Cardinals and the reigning Pope.
It must also be emphasized that these interviews, which the Pope grants, are becoming a bit like the fourth tablespoon of Nutella: a little bit nauseating. Journalists’ questions are always the same and, clearly, uncomfortable issues are not addressed. Risks are different. In the first place we want to pass on the idea that these interviews are off the cuff, free and spontaneous, but it is clear that the Pope is not asked “uncomfortable” questions. What are we talking about? We refer, for example, to the condemnation of Bishop Zanchetta in Argentina. Francis had spoken to the press about the subject before the conviction claiming his complete innocence, now why no journalist has the courage to ask him what he thinks of this judicial decision? Would it not be appropriate to ask Francis if, in his opinion, a bishop should be considered “equal” to other citizens and therefore serve his sentence inside a prison and not in ecclesial structures?
We refer to the provision by which he removed the rights of the cardinalate from His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu. Why does none of these journalists press Francis asking him why he chose to condemn a Prince of the Church even before he had the certainty of his guilt? How come nobody asked the Pope the reson why he allowed certain activities that violate fundamental human rights? Because no one says: “Your Holiness, from the debate it emerges that you knew everything, now what do you expect?”
Let’s talk about the fury he unleashed against those faithful who are linked to the liturgy of St. Pius V. Why journalists do not make themselves heard and become the voice of thousands of believers who simply want to celebrate the rite they feel closest to their sensitivity? Francis has always spoken of mercy and acceptance, but are these faithful to be kept out of the fold of Christ? Why did no one ask him about the Letter Desiderio Desideravi, written by the Franciscan bishop Vittorio Viola, with the sole purpose of demonizing the ancient rite? Why this hatred? Francis speaks of ideologized media but the fight against this rite is pure ideology. There are individuals who have forged their careers over these disputes, people from Liguria who have been brought to the Aventine despite understanding absolutely nothing of liturgy.
As far as President Biden is concerned, Francis reported that he must be helped to understand his inconsistency. The Pope calls the President of the United States inconsistent. Even this news, some journalists avoided publishing always threading with the said / unsaid, for example: if Biden sponsors abortion he defines it as inconsistent and invites him to talk about it with his bishop, but when asked if the measure adopted by Archbishop Cordileone against Nancy Patricia Pelosi is correct, then he says “when the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses its pastoral nature, it creates a political problem.” But maybe it is the other way around? Isn’t Nancy Pelosi who is using the Body of Christ for her own political will? What is political about a bishop’s decision to enforce the norms provided by the Catholic Church? It seems that Francis is more interested in judging people rather than the doctrine and does not miss an opportunity to lash out at those bishops who are clearly not similar to him.
Why none of these journalists asked Francis to account for the hiring that Mauro Gambetti is supervising in the Vatican favoring that climate of amoral familism that the Pope said he wanted to fight? Why does no one ask the Pope for a definitive word on homosexuality?
The fake news on the death of the Holy Father Emeritus
Let’s not forget, then, that the Mexican media yesterday relaunched a fake news about the death of the Supreme Pontiff Emeritus. As usual, these journalists are information experts and as such an authoritative source, in fact they have identified a fake Twitter account that pretended to be His Excellency Msgr. Georg Bätzing. We hope, moreover, that the German bishop will intervene by condemning this serious act, also requesting that the author must be prosecuted since it is a crime against him.
Journalism or servility?
Furthermore, these interviews, give rise to a further problem that already meanders within the media accredited to the Press Office: those who “speak well” of the Pope will have the “privilege” of interviewing him. This obviously involves a huge risk: the journalists who will write what really happens beyond the Tiber will be very few.
In fact, the journalists Valentina Alazraki (who conducted today’s interview) and Philip Pullella (who conducted the interview in episodes for Reuters in recent days) were awarded, last Novermber, by Francis, the titles of lady and knight of the Grand Cross of the Pian Order.
It is clear that these interviews will never reveal anything genuine that really reflects a desire to clarify certain issues. Even with regard to sexual abuse, we know very well that the Church today deals with these issues differently than in past years, but why does none of these reporters ask the Pope for real facts? It is clear that the legislation has changed today and can solve these problems, but why not ask Francis why some of his friends have being given preferential treatment? This should be realjournalism: a service to the Truth. Otherwise it is servilism.
Silere non possum