Interview offers a 360-degree look at Pope Francis

Interview offers a 360-degree look at Pope Francis

In a wide-ranging interview with Jesuit publications, Pope Francis said today’s church needs to “heal wounds” by proclaiming the Gospel and moving away from the “small-minded rules” that have sometimes dominated its message.

The interview, published in the United States by America magazine, is well worth reading in its entirely. It gives a more complete picture of the Argentine pope, including his spirituality, his goals as pope and some interesting self-criticism.

Asked what the church needs most today, the pope said it was “the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.”

“I see the church as a field hospital after battle.It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else,” he said.

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all,” he said.

Francis said his primary role as pope was “discernment” and promised that this would be done with consultation. This is not something he always did as a young Jesuit provincial, he said, and his authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led to trouble.

At the Vatican, he said, he wants to offer consistories of cardinals and synods of bishops a real chance for input, which means giving them “a less rigid form.” That’s the idea behind the “group of eight” cardinals he’s named to consult on Curia reform, he added.

“I do not want token consultations, but real consultations,” he said. In particular, he said the Synod of Bishops in its current form is not dynamic and could learn lessons in collegiality from Orthodox brethren.

As for the Roman Curia, the pope indicated that many problems and complaints brought to Rome’s attention can and should be dealt with by local bishops. “The Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers,” he said. Nor should they be “institutions of censorship,” he said.

Pope Francis emphasized that the Catholic faithful, as the people of God, are “infallible in matters of belief.” He spoke of the “common sanctity” witnessed in daily life: “a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity.”

In this sense, he said, the church is “the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

The Ignatian idea of “thinking with the church” involves a dialogue between all its members, he said. “We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”

As he told reporters on his return flight from Brazil in July, the pope said the church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”

“This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context,” he said.

“The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” he said.

Francis said the way the church teaches in the modern world is crucial to the success of evangelization, which must focus on the essentials.

“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently….We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel,” he said.

Asked the about importance of the Second Vatican Council, the pope said its fruits have been enormous, particularly in the area of liturgy.

He said the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to grant wider use of the Tridentine Mass was “prudent,” but added that there was a worrying risk of exploiting the old liturgy ideologically.

All this confirms what we've seen and heard in bits and pieces over the last six months: that this pope has a new vision of papal ministry and is unafraid to put it into practice.

28 comments (Add your own)

1. taad wrote:
I feel like he cuts me off at the knees. He hits at everything I hold dear. A sacred liturgy without novelties, pro-life issues, marriage and family issues. I am deeply disappointed. Why have worked to save babies all these years, and then be told we should have been so vocal. Where is pastoral approach for those who want to have liturgy that is faithful, and not one that is someone's invention week by week? So people like Pelosi, and Kerry, are okay? We were all wrong to try to save babies? We are wrong to say a marriage is between one man and one woman. We can believe it, but just not talk about it. Maybe Christ should not have told the women at the well she was not really married to her 7th husband. He should have said something nice.

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 4:32 PM

2. Rene wrote:
If you look at how these and other previous comments by Pope Francis are interpreted by those (within and without the Church) who would like to change what the Catholic Church teaches, you get the feeling that his comments are used by these change agents to suggest that Pope Francis is going to change the Church's teaching. I know Pope Francis cannot change what the Church teachings, however, his informal comments are used to create confusion among the faithful and as ammunition by these change agents. They love to compare Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and to suggest that while Benedict was a reactionary enforcer who did not care about people, Francis loves everyone and is allowing a breath of fresh air inside the Church. Hopefully, Pope Francis will start putting his brain in gear before he opens his mouth again, otherwise the trend back to orthodoxy within the Church will be slowed significantly or will come to a screeching halt.

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 5:53 PM

3. Blake Helgoth wrote:
The Holy Father is saying that we must get back to evangelization, not forcing a moral ethic upon people who have no relationship with Christ Jesus, no power of the Holy Spirit to live the law. Coercion will not win the culture wars, but introducing people to Christ who will then transform their lives will radically change our culture. Think of the enormous resources that have been spent on the pro-life cause, mostly in the political arena, and how small the return has been. Just hink if we spent that much effort on evangelization? How much of a return would we have if we let Christ do the work?

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 5:53 PM

4. Chesire11 wrote:
His holiness is not saying that we shouldn't save babies from being aborted, or that we should be dumbing down the liturgy. What he is saying is that we cannot be selective in what parts of the Gospel message we proclaim. A bland, beige, timid and accommodating Catholicism is certainly a danger to be avoided, but so too is a narrow Catholicism that focuses on one or two issues to the exclusion, or minimization of the rest.

If we want to end the scourge of abortion we cannot do it with protests and parliaments, we will do it through conversion. THAT is our greatest weapon, the beauty and joy of the Gospel message proclaimed in its fullness. Convert their hearts, and all of the rest will follow, and we will convert them not by arguing with them, not by defeating them, nor by coercing them, but by proclaiming to them the Good News of Christ Crucified and Risen. None of that is possible with the sort of "narrow" Catholicism against which His Holiness warns us.

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 7:41 PM

5. Robert Homan wrote:
"Think of the enormous resources that have been spent on the pro-life cause, mostly in the political arena, and how small the return has been. Just hink if we spent that much effort on evangelization? How much of a return would we have if we let Christ do the work?"

Amen. Exactly. If wholesale change of our culture is needed - which most crusaders (meant in the best way possible) acknowledge - then this is the only way.

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 7:46 PM

6. Brian Ortiz wrote:
Here, here, Chesire11!

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 8:08 PM

7. Ran wrote:

Nowhere did Pope Francis suggest that any of those ideals that you hold dear are not to be talked about, or worse, abandoned. No. He is rather calling for the proclamation of the person of Christ and the encounter with him to be the context for all of those ideals.

It is in the context of that Christocentric encounter that your example of the Samaritan woman can make any sense at all. It is precisely in the close proximity with Christ himself that a deeply entrenched sinner like her is able to face the truth — the truth of who Christ is, the truth of who she is, the truth of what she has become and the truth of the depravity of the things she has done — that she can leave her bucket at the well, go into the city, and proclaim, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 8:55 PM

8. PewSitHard wrote:
" Think of the enormous resources that have been spent on the pro-life cause, mostly in the political arena, and how small the return has been. Just think if we spent that much effort on evangelization?"
Sure, let the abortion rate climb even higher... Another couple of decades and there won't be ANY people around to evangelize.
We (RadTrads) fight abortion every day, in every way possible; regardless of what the local ordinary thinks or wants. We know the hierarchy isn't keen on the pro-life cause because it costs them brownie points with the politicians. Tough!
If you think evangelization is all we need to do, please report to the nearest Baptist church. That's what Protestants think.

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 8:57 PM

9. Chrysostom wrote:
I am confused. What has emptied the churches in many countries, including Ireland, is the appalling child sex abuse. The Pope does not seem to think it is important.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 1:09 AM

10. ThomasB wrote:
He's not approaching it very well then. He's letting the media control his context. Even worse, some catholics will just hear what the media reports and think that's what the Holy Father promotes. He needs to start thinking how to approach the faithful en masse, because let's face it, the catholic world doesn't have the resources to reach the masses anymore. It's controlled by non-christians, secularists, and atheists.

His message is good, but his delivery is awful.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 1:34 AM

11. David wrote:
I appreciate the Holy Father's commentary that "we do not need to talk about these issues all the time". We do want to avoid being all about the rules, however I don't remember ever really hearing a sermon on the evils of contraception, re-defining marriage and other life issues.

I am concerned that "all the time" will perpetuate most clergy never speaking about these sins... (They are still sins, right?)

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 6:48 AM

12. Lowell Rinker wrote:
Unlike "taad" above, my heart swells with the spirit of our new Pope. Clearly, he has a mission to elevate substance over form....and is comfortable letting God judge, while the Church does the work of spreading the message of Jesus. I love his inclusiveness, his willingness to reach out to folks where they are rather than build barriers.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 8:00 AM

13. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn wrote:
He cuts no one off at the knees, he rejects only small mindedness and idolatry, in a church that is full of both.

If the interview does not make all of us uncomfortable in some way, we all need to reexamine our faith!

For goodness sake, the day before he said to a group of gynecologists: "every unborn child who is unjustly condemned to be aborted has face of Jesus."

This pope brings us a church that calls one and all to transformation and healing in Christ Jesus. And that is a hard pill for so many of us to follow.

Thanks for your elucidation here, John. I knew that yours was a "must-see" blog on this topic.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 8:08 AM

14. Christ's Daughter wrote:
"The Holy Father is saying that we must get back to evangelization, not forcing a moral ethic upon people who have no relationship with Christ Jesus, no power of the Holy Spirit to live the law. Coercion will not win the culture wars, but introducing people to Christ who will then transform their lives will radically change our culture. Think of the enormous resources that have been spent on the pro-life cause, mostly in the political arena, and how small the return has been. Just hink if we spent that much effort on evangelization? How much of a return would we have if we let Christ do the work?"

AMEN!! Couldnt have said it better Blake!

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 8:29 AM

15. Paul wrote:
The Pope says: Who am I to judge. I might as well join the Protestant church

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 8:30 AM

16. Stephen DeVol wrote:
The biggest concern from people I know is the Church's pastoral approach. Pope Francis is right on when he says that first attitudes must change before the Church can respond with love to culture.

What is most important is that we begin to share experiences with one another ... have that crossing-of-the-bridge experience ... and stop dehumanizing people with intellectual and ideological debates that will surely result in stalemate and acrimony and division.

The difficulty in discussing Catholicism with those who ask questions or have doubts lies in seeking a way of thinking outside of strict dualities. Many of the hidden truths of Christianity have been misunderstood or lost and how to read them with the eyes of the mystics rather than interpreting them through rational thought.

We believe the Church is suffering greatly from the overly clericalized view of church structure and overly sacralized view of magisterial authority held by many in the hierarchy and promoted under the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict. We believe that if any perspective verges on heresy, it is one that asserts (functionally if not verbally) that preserving the clericalist hierarchical structure is more important than the Eucharist, effective pastoral care, and genuine community. It seems to ignore at best and contravene at worst the example and teaching of Jesus in the Gospels. But a church genuinely rooted in the Spirit given to each and every one of the baptized, and willing to move forward in trust and welcome the gifts of all — that could change the world.

~ Stephen DeVol, CITVN Executive Producer, Catholic Worker Movement

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 8:49 AM

17. JMarie wrote:
No worries Thomas B. Have faith my friend. God is greater than the media. The Holy Spirit goes where it wants. Infiltrating the media and us faulty humans is no problem for this great paraclete!

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 9:20 AM

18. jeanne schray wrote:
wow! The Pope has spoken yet again in a wonderful way. I am with the pro-life movement. That witness is important. But those who have been out there daily, like Monsignor Reilly see that criticism, condemnation do nothing. What brings these girls and their parents and even the abortion workers into conversion is the Love of God, the Mercy of God, the help of God through the Body of Christ. A sign that says, "Justice for All" rankles even me. A sign that says "Jesus loves you and wants the best for you and yours" witnesses and brings results. Let the Holy Spirit work. We must all pray for discernment of where our hearts have put on ideologies rather than Holy Love in Truth which is Jesus.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 10:14 AM

19. LoveGodAndAsHeLoved wrote:
I am blessed to have been introduced to the pro-life movement by a friend. My pastor did not speak of pro-life at the time. The point is that the Holy Spirt picked the time and the place and the messenger. Holy Father was picked by the Holy Spirit. LET'S ALL PRAY THE 15 MYSTERIES OF THE HOLY ROSARY EVERY DAY. I read that Holy Father started that when he attended a Rosary led by JPII who also did that. Once we are all on the same page, we can talk.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 1:28 PM

20. Milford wrote:
Too much confusion! The liberals think the Pope is "caving in" and the conservatives feel that they've gotten their legs cut out from under them. The leader must lead - yes, mercifully and inclusively, but the faithful need a clear path to follow. I'm not seeing the clear path - the delivery is lacking.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 2:22 PM

21. Celia wrote:
It is so easy for all you people to judge the Pope, instead of pray for the holly spirit to help him to lead the Catholic according to God's will

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 2:34 PM

22. Milford wrote:
I apologize if you believed I was judging. It is not my intention and I am not judging. I am just stating how I feel and what I observe. Confusion is not good.

Fri, September 20, 2013 @ 8:18 PM

23. David Naas wrote:
For those whose Catholicism is of the "political" variety, whether of the Left or the Right, this Pope is going to disappoint, over and over.
Why is it so hard to understand what he is saying?
He is telling everyone to stop fondly regarding your idols and look at Jesus.
Everything else will fall into place once that little reorientation is done.
The Gospel, the Good News, is not our pet peeves and personal hobby horses, which we tend to make our true worship, ie *idols*.
The Good News is Jesus Christ.
That is what he is saying, to those who have ears to hear.

Sat, September 21, 2013 @ 12:02 AM

24. Andrew James wrote:
I am a little surprised by the expressions of "confusion" with the Pope's message. Are people truly confused by what they are hearing ... or are they simply displeased with it?

"Who am I to judge?"

"The ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."

"When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?"

These are simple, clear, concise statements that get right to the heart of, and in, the Pope's beliefs. I don't think judgement, condemnation, exclusion, rejection and rigidity is the "Good News" the Gospels were meant to convey. For many of us, love, mercy, understanding and acceptance is a lot better news ... and a lot more welcome. Francis, I believe, has been trying make these kind of distinctions.

Sat, September 21, 2013 @ 5:02 AM

25. Laura Y. wrote:
Pope Francis is obviously changing things and it remains to be seen what all of this leads to. I myself am struggling with much of what he is saying and doing and it seems much of his message is being obfuscated by a very poor delivery. The "faithful" are confused and those on the "fringes" are elated. Now, that kind of reminds me of the situation with the Pharisees and the sinners. The Pharisees were the "faithful" who were tied too much to rules and laws. The sinners were outcasts. Jesus came for sinners - anyone with ears to hear and those who perceived their need. All Pharisees did not have closed ears - those like Nicodemus were sincere, others were not. Let's face it and get it straight: none of us should be rejoicing, either because we have the law or because you feel the Pope thinks that sin is OK. We are all sinners, poor sinners and are in need of mercy. Back in Jesus day and even now, the problem is not the law but the lack of mercy demonstrated - are the righteous helping the "outcasts." Do the righteous recognize their own poverty? To those to whom much is given, much is expected. Are the "righteous" being merciful? That being said, each and every time Jesus healed, He said, "Go and SIN NO MORE." We cannot rejoice in someone's sinfulness. We cannot just smile and act like everything is ok. Love rejoices in the truth and the truth of things must be spoken. Must be spoken with love. Let none of us get too comfy in what Pope Francis is saying, like any of us is being excused. Those who know Christ know the Truth. If you ever get confused about what any Pope says, why not read your Bible and spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Ponder His Passion. Do you think He went through all of that so we could all sing Kumbayah and let people remain in their sin? NO!!!!!! But let us recall what He said from the Cross, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." I do believe that Pope Francis is not being clear enough when he speaks and the words can be taken very wrongly by everyone and if he is a true shepherd, he will improve in this area. Call me a bad Catholic, but I know what the teachings of the Church are and I know that Jesus is Lord and Savior. What the Pope says isn't going to change one iota of the Truth. Remember folks, the Pope is just a human being who is infallible only in Church teaching, not when making off the cuff statements. Don't put too much stock in it and if you see that he is going way off from Truth, do not despair for the Truth is unchanging. Did not our Lord admonish us to not put our faith in men? Why then are we allowing this man to shake our faith in the Church? Ask the Lord to enter your heart and show you where you are wrong and He will do so, lovingly and with precision. Put your faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings, not in the opinions of man.

Sat, September 21, 2013 @ 9:08 AM

26. MaggieMcC wrote:
Perhaps the Holy Spirit has given us a pope (who would make a splendid diocesan priest) who will remind us that, however we are attacked politically/culturally all over the world, the ultimate battle is fought in each individual soul. Ireland may make abortion legal, America may suppress freedom of religion and even persecute Chrustians--as they are in the MidEast and elsewhere, but each battle is individual, decided by each soul. For a pope to phone a woman who has chosen not to abort may seem very small in scope but who knows how many unknown women or men may have a change of heart from that one call. SSM activists may drive some businesses into bankruptcy but each person affected has stood for their faith and inspired others to do the same. It's not one big war, perhaps, but little, vital skirmishes for all. To stand firm and loving in your faith is the greatest testimony we can give to evangelize.

Sun, September 22, 2013 @ 3:22 AM

27. Robert Beaulieu wrote:
Well said Laura, God Bless You.

Sun, September 22, 2013 @ 8:08 AM

28. Terik Ororke wrote:
Many people make religion an idol. God hates that. Remember the words of Jesus about those who need a physician and those who think that they do not? If the Pope is making you uncomfortable, perhaps you are uncomfortable with Jesus as well. Think of how Jesus touched people. While He hated sin, he was gentle. While he went to the temple, he despised the fact that temple worship did not honor God. Now, where do you fit in?

Sun, September 22, 2013 @ 4:29 PM

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