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Candid Interview with Pope Francis: How He Promised the Virgin Mary He Wouldn’t Watch TV and More

AFP/Alberto Pizzoli

The Holy Father talks about everything from his daily siestas to how much money people spend on pets

May 24, 2015— Alone with Pope Francis at his residence at Santa Marta, in the Vatican, Argentine journalist Juan Berretta, in an historic one-on-one interview, engages one of the most important people in the world, who reveals his personal thoughts and feelings. "I want them to remember me as a good person," he says. And he admits, from the depths of his heart, "Being with people does me good." 

In a small and simple room in the Santa Marta residence, in the Vatican, Pope Francis received La Voz de Pueblo [The People’s Voice] without the presence of third parties, and under only one condition: "The only thing I ask is that you play clean," he said before we began to record. Later, during the 45 minute interview, he would admit that "reporters used to make me panic." It’s clear that he has overcome that trauma.

Jorge Bergoglio was willing to walk us through his personal life, answering with intensity and with gestures when the question interested him, and also giving dry and direct answers when faced with a question that, according to his response, could create an uproar outside the walls of the Holy See. Solitude, pizza, fear of physical pain, his magnetism, the things that make him cry, pressure, television, the value of utopias… These were some of the points that he touched on during the conversation, which started on the topic of his election.

Did you used to dream of being the Pope?

Never! Nor about being the president of the Republic or the general of the Army. You’ve seen that there are some kids who dream about that. Not I.

But you didn’t fantasize about that possibility as you advanced in your service as a bishop, either?

After I was in positions of authority for 15 years, where they kept assigning me, I went back to the simple life, to being a confessor, a parish priest… The life of a religious, of a Jesuit, changes according to needs. And regarding the possibility, I was on the list of "papabili" during the other conclave… But this time, because of my age, 76 years old, and because in addition there were certainly better-suited people… So nobody mentioned my name, nobody. Besides, they said that I was a "kingmaker" (as they call cardinals who, due to their experience and authority, are more able than others to influence the electoral results).  So much so, that not even one photo of me came out in the newspapers; nobody was thinking about me. The London bookmakers ranked me in 46th place (he laughs heartily). I wasn’t thinking about myself either; it didn’t even occur to me.

Despite the fact that in 2005 you were the second most voted after Ratzinger?

Those are things people say. What’s true is that at least in the other election I was in the newspapers; I appeared among the "papabili." Inside, it was clear that it had to be Benedict, and there was almost unanimity in his favor, and I liked that very much. His candidacy was clear, and there was no clear second-place candidate. There were several possibilities, but none was strong. That’s why I came to Rome with just what I was wearing and with a ticket to go back on Saturday night so I could be in Buenos Aires on Palm Sunday. I even left my homily finished on my desk. I never thought it was going to happen.

And when you were elected, what did you feel?

Before the final election I felt great peace. "If it’s what God wants…," I thought. And I stayed peaceful. While they were counting the votes, which takes forever, I prayed the rosary, unworried. My friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes was at my side. In a vote prior to the definitive one he said to me, "Don’t worry, eh. This is how the Holy Spirit works…" (he laughs again).

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