“His resignation had nothing to do with personal issues. It was an act of government. His last act of government.” Pope Francis said this in an interview with Argentinian newspaper La Nación, on 28 June this year and published in the Sunday 3 July issue.
The interview, which was conducted by Joaquín Morales Solá, focuses a great deal on Argentinian affairs: the Pope’s alleged clashes with President Macri, the question of the rejected funds which the government wished to give the Scholas Ocurrentes foundation and the presence in Argentina of people who are considered to be the Pope’s “spokesmen” when they are actually not.
The interview also contains some references to Benedict XVI. “He has trouble getting around but his brain and memory are functioning perfectly,” Francis said on the very day he celebrated his predecessor’s 65th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. “He was a revolutionary,” Francis continued, referring to Ratzinger. “In the meeting with cardinals, shortly before the 2013 Conclave, he told us that one of us was going to be Pope and that he did not know who. His generosity was unique. His resignation brought to light all of the Church’s problems. His resignation had nothing to do with personal issues. It was an act of government. His last act of government.”
The Pope also answered a question about his relations with the Church’s “ultraconservatives”. “They get on with their work, I get on with mine. I want a Church that is open and understanding and accompanies wounded families. They say no to everything. I continue my path without being sidetracked. I do not like getting rid of people. I never have. Let me reiterate: I reject conflict.” He concluded with a big smile: “You remove a nail by applying pressure upwards. Or you leave them to the side to rest when you reach retirement age.”
Regarding his relations with Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri, Francis said: “People have no reason to think that there is a dispute between me and Macri” who “seems to me to be a noble person”.
The Pope denied allegations that Gustavo Vera, a professor, politician and social activist and Francis’ longtime friend and collaborator, acts as his spokesperson. “There is a great deal of confusion about my spokesmen in Argentina. Two months ago, the Vatican newsroom issued an official statement saying that only it was the Pope’s spokesman. There are no other spokesmen in Argentina or any other country. Do I need to make myself even more clear? Then I will? The Vatican newsroom is the Pope’s only spokesman.” These words should be seen within the Argentinian context, where Bergoglio is often used as a pawn in the political debate.
The journalist asked the Pope to comment on the criticisms he received for having received Hebe de Bonafini – a mother of the Plaza de Mayo who had used harsh words against Bergoglio in the past – in the Vatican. “I even got a letter from a friend criticizing me about this. It was an act of forgiveness. She asked for forgiveness and I did not deny her this. I do not deny it to anyone… Two of this woman’s children were killed. I kneel down before a suffering like this. What she said to me is of noconsequence. And I know she said some horrible things in the past.”
“This interpretation is uttely false. I told the two heads of Scholas, with all my heart, that I was shielding them, I was protecting them from potential temptations and errors in the running of the foundation. In no way was I alluding to the government. When I saw President Macri in Rome, I told him that this is a private donation acknowledged by the Holy See. The government accepted Scholas’ request because it had been informed about this. I still believe we do not have the right to ask the government for one single peso when there are so many social problems that need to be resolved.”
Finally, in his interview with La Nación, the Pope confided something about his health: a full medical check-up confirmed that he is well. According to the author of the interview , the Pope’s doctors told him “the results are like those of a 40-year-old “.