“A pope will go to WYD. Francis or John XXIV,” Pope Francis quipped in an interview with Portuguese television TVI that was recorded on August 12, 2022, but the first part of which was only broadcast on September 4. Portugal hosts the next World Youth Day, in August 2023.
In the interview, the Pope discusses the preparation of the WYD in Lisbon, as well as the issue of sexual abuse, which he calls a “monstrosity”; he also spoke about his relations with Ukraine.
Asked about the preparation of the WYD in Lisbon, Pope Francis underlined “the genius of John Paul II” who had the idea of “bringing together youth from all regions of the world in order to universalize youth.”
Young people from “different languages, different cultures” can meet, “strengthen themselves together” and find “common desires,” explains the Pope, mentioning in particular the presence of Chinese pilgrims.
Asked about his personal participation in this gathering, the Pontiff answered with humor: “The pope will come! Either Francis, or John XXIV, but the pope will come! Let it be as God wills!” he said, 11 months before the event, while his health continues to raise many questions.
In 2013, the prospect of a long trip to Brazil for the WYD in Rio was rumored as part of the reason Benedict XVI retired.
The Pope has joked before about his successor taking the name John XXIV. Read about the intricacies of papal names below.
Sexual abuse is a “monstrosity”
“Abuse by men and women of the Church, abuse of authority, abuse of power and sexual abuse, is a monstrosity,” the Pope also insists in the interview, speaking with gravity and length about this theme. Various cases of abuse have come to light in Portugal in recent weeks.
“Abuse is a tragic reality of all times,” the Pontiff asserts, mentioning the many abuses committed in families, in sports clubs, or in schools. “The culture of abuse is very widespread, especially in pornographic films where abuse of minors is filmed,” the Pope said.
He denounces this as “a destructive thing, humanly diabolical,” but noted that this “culture of abuse” is not linked to celibacy.
He nevertheless emphasized the particular gravity of abuse committed by clerics and religious, whose role is to “lead a child to God” and not to “destroy his life.”
Francis reminds us that “the Church made a decision after the ‘explosion’ in Chicago, at the time of Cardinal Law” [in this passage, the Pope seems to confuse Chicago with the city of Boston, the site of a vast sexual abuse scandal revealed in 2002, Editor’s note]. “A priest cannot continue to be a priest if he is violent. He can’t,” he insists.
“The priest exists to lead men to God, not to destroy men in the name of God. Zero tolerance,” the head of the Catholic Church insists, saying he feels a personal responsibility to ensure that these dramas do not happen again in an ecclesial setting. “I suffer from the cases of abuse that come to me. I suffer, but it must be faced,” he said.
The Pope assumes his willingness to dialogue with Moscow and Kiev
Regarding the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Pope Francis recalls that he personally has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “I have spoken with both of them, they have both come to visit me,” he said, explaining that dialogue must continue because it characterizes the human species, as opposed to animals that rely on “pure instinct.”
The Pope’s sore knee prevents him from considering a trip to Kiev and Moscow in the short term, he admitted, mentioning the advice of his doctor who told him he could not travel to Kazakhstan – a trip that is nevertheless on the papal agenda for the period from September 13 to 15.
He assures that he maintains “contact by telephone” with the Ukrainian leaders, and explains that he has sent his representatives to Ukraine, including Archbishop Gallagher, in charge of international relations.
A second installment of the interview airs on the evening of September 5.