Pope Francis and Eugenio Scalfari in Dialogue – How the Church Will Change

This pope does it again… and again… and again.

I almost cried and was often overwhelmed reading this new interview. Here are a few excerpts.

* * *

Pope Francis told me: “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

The Pope comes in and shakes my hand, and we sit down. The Pope smiles and says: “Some of my colleagues who know you told me that you will try to convert me.”

It’s a joke, I tell him. My friends think it is you who want to convert me.
He smiles again and replies: “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

“I don’t like the word narcissism”, the Pope said, “it indicates an excessive love for oneself and this is not good, it can produce serious damage not only to the soul of those affected but also in relationship with others, with the society in which one lives. The real trouble is that those most affected by this  –  which is actually a kind of mental disorder  –  are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists”.

Many church leaders have been.
“You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”

The leprosy of the papacy, those were his exact words.

you think that mystics have been important for the Church?
“They have been fundamental. A religion without mystics is a philosophy.”

Do you have a mystical vocation?
“What do you think?”

I wouldn’t think so.
“You’re probably right. I love the mystics; Francis also was in many aspects of his life, but I do not think I have the vocation and then we must understand the deep meaning of that word. The mystic manages to strip himself of action, of facts, objectives and even the pastoral mission and rises until he reaches communion with the Beatitudes. Brief moments but which fill an entire life.”

Has that ever happened to you?
“Rarely. For example, when the conclave elected me Pope. Before I accepted I asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square. My head was completely empty and I was seized by a great anxiety. To make it go way and relax I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and I no longer had any anxiety or emotion. At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting and the table on which was the act of acceptance. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then on the balcony there was the ‘”Habemus Papam”.

Do you feel touched by grace?
“No one can know that. Grace is not part of consciousness, it is the amount of light in our souls, not knowledge nor reason. Even you, without knowing it, could be touched by grace.”

Without faith? A non-believer?
“Grace regards the soul.”

I do not believe in the soul.
“You do not believe in it but you have one.”

Your Holiness, you said that you have no intention of trying to convert me and I do not think you would succeed.
“We cannot know that, but I don’t have any such intention.”

And St. Francis?
“He’s great because he is everything. He is a man who wants to do things, wants to build, he founded an order and its rules, he is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is mystical. He found evil in himself and rooted it out. He loved nature, animals, the blade of grass on the lawn and the birds flying in the sky. But above all he loved people, children, old people, women. He is the most shining example of that agape we talked about earlier.”

Jesus, as you pointed out, said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Do you think that this has happened?
“Unfortunately, no. Selfishness has increased and love towards others declined.”

So this is the goal that we have in common: at least to equalize the intensity of these two kinds of love. Is your Church ready and equipped to carry out this task?
“What do you think?”

I think love for temporal power is still very strong within the Vatican walls and in the institutional structure of the whole Church. I think that the institution dominates the poor, missionary Church that you would like.
“In fact, that is the way it is, and in this area you cannot perform miracles. Let me remind you that even Francis in his time held long negotiations with the Roman hierarchy and the Pope to have the rules of his order recognized. Eventually he got the approval but with profound changes and compromises.”

I believe that Catholics involved in politics carry the values of their religion within them, but have the mature awareness and expertise to implement them. The Church will never go beyond its task of expressing and disseminating its values, at least as long as I’m here.”

But that has not always being the case with the Church.
“It has almost never been the case. Often the Church as an institution has been dominated by temporalism and many members and senior Catholic leaders still feel this way.

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Read HERE the entire interview.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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