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Pope Holds Presser En Route to Rome

Pope Francis gestures to journalists during a press conference on July 13, 2015, onboard a plane on his way back to Rome from Paraguay, the final stop of his South America tour. Pope Francis departed Paraguay , bringing to a close a weeklong visit where he drew attention to the poor and marginalized in some of the region's poorest nations.
AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO / AFP / VINCENZO PINTO
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Covers climate change, idolatry, Vatileaks, Pope Emeritus, AIDS, and the fundamental problem with fundamentalism

“If humanity does not change, poverty, tragedies, wars and injustice will continue. Children will go on dying of hunger,” Francis said during his in-flight interview with journalists. Regarding the Vatileaks case he said: “Vallejo and Chaouqui’s appointments were a mistake. Journalists do well to condemn corruption. He expressed his appreciation for Ratzinger’s work. Fundamentalism, he said “exists in all religions but it is not religious, it is idolatric”, Via Andrea Tornielli

The world is on the verge of suicide if we do not radically change the way in which we deal with problems linked to climate change and the current development model. Francis said this in his conversation with journalists on board the flight from Bangui to Rome. The Pope also responded to a couple of questions about the Vatileaks scandal: “Vallejo and Chaouqui’s appointments in the COSEA commission were a mistake,” he said and went on to give significant recognition to the work Ratzinger had started.

In Kenya, you met poor families and listened to their stories of exclusion from fundamental human rights such as access to drinking water. What did you feel when you listened to their stories and what needs to be done to end such injustices?

“…I do not recall the statistics precisely but I seem to recall reading that 80% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 17% of the population, I don’t know if that’s true. It is an economic system that places money at the centre, the god money. I remember a non-Catholic ambassador once speaking in French and saying “Nous son tombeé dans l’idolatrie dell’argent”. What did I feel in Kangemi? I felt pain, great pain! Yesterday I went to a children’s hospital, the only one in Bangui and in the whole country. In the intensive care unit there’s no oxygen, there were children that were malnourished. Idolatry is when a man or a woman loses his or her ID card, in other words their identity as God’s children and prefers to seek a tailor-made God. The bottom line is this; if humanity does not change, poverty, tragedies, wars and injustice will continue. Children will go on dying of hunger. What does that percentage of people that holds 80% of the world’s wealth in their hands think of this? This is not communism, it is the truth. And seeing the truth is not easy.”

Today, a great deal is being said about the Vatileaks case: Without going into the trial that is underway, I would like to ask you: how important is the free and secular press in uprooting corruption?

“A free, secular and religious, but professional press. The professionalism of the press can be secular or religious: the important thing is for it to be professional and for news not to be manipulated. For me it is important because condemning injustice corruption is a great job. Professional press needs to say it all but without succumbing to the most common sins: misinformation, in other words only telling half of the story and leaving the other half out; slander, when the unprofessional press dishonours people; defamation, which involves ruining a person’s reputation. These are the three defects that erode the professionalism of the press. We need professionalism. And regarding corruption: looking carefully at the facts and telling things as they are: there is corruption here because of this, this and that. And if a real journalist makes a mistake, he or she apologises.”

Religious fundamentalism is threatening the whole planet, we saw this with the Paris attacks. In the face of this danger, do you think religious leaders should intervene more in the political sphere?

“If intervening in the political sphere means doing politics, then no. They should be priests, pastors, Imams, Rabbis. Their political intervention is indirect, they preach values, real values and one of the greatest values of all is fraternity between us. We are all God’s children, we all have the same Father. I don’t like the word tolerance, we need to live peacefully alongside one another, develop friendships. Fundamentalism is a disease that exists in all religions. In the Catholic Church we have some – many – who believe they possess the absolute truth and they go on sullying others through slander and defamation and this is wrong. I say this because it is my Church. Religious fundamentalism must be combatted. It is not religious, God is lacking, it is idolatric. Hat religious leaders need to do is convince people who have these tendencies. Fundamentalism that ends in tragedy or commits crimes is a bad thing but it exists in all religions.”

[On Vatileaks] How did Mgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda and Frabcesca Chaouqui come to be members of the COSEA commission? Do you believe you made a mistake?

“A mistake was made. Vallejo joined because of the role he had and did have up until now: he was secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. How did she get in: I am not sure, but I think I am right in saying that it was he who said she was someone who was well acquainted with the world of business relations. They worked and when the work was complete, COSEA’s members kept some positions in the Vatican. Mrs. Chaouqui did not stay in the Vatican: some say she was angry abou this. The judges will tell us what her real intentions were, how they did it. It did not come as a surprise to me, I didn’t lose any sleep over it because they showed everyone the work begun with the commission of nine cardinals, to root out corruption and the things that are wrong. There’s one thing I want to say, not about Vallejo and Chaouqui. Thirteen days before John Paul II’s death, during the via Crucis, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, talked about the “filth in the Church.” He denounced the first one. Then John Paul II died and Ratzinger, who was a dean on the “pro eligendo Pontefice” mass, talked about the same thing. We elected him because of his openness about things. It is since that time that there has been corruption in the air in the Vatican. Regarding the trial: I have not read the charges in full. I would have liked the whole thing to have been over and done with before the Jubilee but I don’t think that’s possible because I want all the defence lawyers to have time to do their job and the freedom of defence.”

AIDS is a serious problem in Africa, the epidemic continues. We know that prevention is the key and that condoms are not the only means of stopping the epidemic, but it is an important part of the solution. Is it not perhaps time for the Church to change its position with regard to the use of condoms in order to prevent infections?

“The question seems biased to me. Yes, it is one of the methods, the morality of the Church faces a bit of a predicament here. The fifth or the sixth commandment: defend life or a sexual relationship that is pen to life. But this is not the problem. There is a greater problem than this: this question makes me think of the question they once asked Jesus: tell me Master, is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Healing is obligatory! Malnutrition, exploitation, slave labour, the lack of drinking water, these are the problems. We’re not talking about which plaster we should use for which wound. The great injustice is social injustice, the great injustice is malnutrition. I don’t like making such casuistic reflections when there are people dying because of a lack of water and hunger. Think about arms trafficking. When these problems cease to exist, then I think we can ask ourselves the question: is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Why are arms still being manufactured? Wars are the leading cause of death. Forget about whether it is acceptable or not to heal on a Saturday. Make justice and when everyone is healed, when there is no injustice in this world, then we can talk about Saturday.”

COP21, the conference of climate change kicks off in Paris today. We hope it will be the start of a solution, are you certain that progress will be made?

“I am not certain but what I can say is that it is either now or never. I think the first conference took place in Kyoto…little was achieved. Every year the problems get worse. At a university meeting on what kind of a world we want to leave behind for our children, one person said: are you sure there will be any children of this generations till around? We are on the verge of suicide, to use a strong word and I am certain that people in Paris are aware of this and want to do something about it. The other day I read that in Greenland, glaciers are losing mass at a rate of billions of tons. In the Pacific, there is a country that is buying another country to move to because in 20 years it will cease to exist (because of rising sea levels, Ed.). I trust these people will do something. I hope this will be the case and I pray it will.

At the end of the question and answer session, the Pope thanked journalists once again for the work they did during his apostolic visit and added: “I say what I know and what I don’t know, I don’t say, I don’t make things up.”

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