“Being a Pope is not an easy job. No one has studied before to do this job,” Pope Francis said in an interview with Italian news site, Il Fatto Quotidiano, published on March 12, 2023. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his pontificate on March 13, Francis spoke to multiple journalists. Over the course of four days the Pope gave interviews to 3 Argentinian media outlets, 1 Italian news site, 1 Swiss TV and radio network, and spoke on a podcast with the Vatican’s official media, Vatican News.
In responding to the questions asked by Il Fatto Quotidiano, the Pontiff looked back on his 10-year pontificate and spoke about reforms, the issue of abuse, and what he hopes for the future of the world and the Church.
“May the Lord be merciful to me. Being a pope is not an easy job. No one has studied before to do this job. But the Lord knows this; it happened the same with Saint Peter. He was quietly fishing and one day Jesus chose him to become a fisher of men,” Pope Francis explained, when asked about his hopes for the future.
“But Peter also fell. He denied him, the very one who had lived day and night with the Lord, who had eaten with him, who had listened to him preach and seen him perform miracles: ‘I do not know that man!’ How was this possible? But Jesus, after the resurrection, chose him again. Here is God’s mercy with us. Even with the Pope. ‘Servus inutilis sum. I am a useless servant,’ as St. Paul VI wrote in his Thought on Death, [quoting Luke.] A very beautiful text that I invite especially priests to read and meditate on.”
The reforms asked for in 2013
Pope Francis remembered the calls for reform made at the 2013 general congregations – the meetings that occur right before a conclave where cardinals discuss what they hope for the future of the church. The Argentinian Pontiff explained that in the last 10 years, he has focused on addressing these requests, especially with the help of the advisory body of the Council of Cardinals, which he created a month after his election.
I tried to do “a synodal work that would really listen to the whole Church, and when I talk about the Church I don’t mean just us priests, who are 1 percent, but the laity, who are 99 percent of the Church,” the Pontiff said. He highlighted the publication of the new Apostolic Constitution of the Roman Curia,Praedicate Evangelium, which came out on March 19, 2022.
Francis said however that when he was elected he remembered the strong words said by his predecessor Benedict XVI at the beginning of his own pontificate : “At this moment there is no need for me to present a programme of governance. […] My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history.”
Only the Lord can evaluate the pontificate
In fact, when asked to give an assessment on the last 10 years, the Pope simply responded, “the evaluation will be done by the Lord whenever He wants.” He added that the Lord will evaluate the Church according to Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew : “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…”
“The Church is not a business, neither is it an NGO, and the pope is not a CEO who has to make ends meet at the end of the year,” the Pope continued. “The Church is the Lord’s! We are simply asked to humbly listen to his will and put it into practice. This may sound like a very simple task, but it is not. We must attune ourselves to the Lord, not to the world.”
“I have never lost sleep”
Despite the difficulties and the responsibilities that come with being the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis says he has “never lost sleep.”
“Sometimes I read totally fabricated reconstructions. Things are much simpler than they may appear on the outside. It is good that among brothers we have the courage to say things to each other’s faces, […] not feeding the gossip that kills, kills anything,” the Pontiff said, regarding attacks and criticisms he has received. “We must strive for unity which does not mean uniformity. We are brothers!”
He says the thing that has made him suffer the most in the last decade is “corruption.” “I’m not just talking about economic corruption, inside and outside the Vatican, I’m talking about corruption of the heart,” he explained, distinguishing between corruption and sin. “We must not slip from sin to corruption. Never!” he added and condemned the “scandal” of abuse within the Church.
Francis again remembered his predecessor Benedict XVI who had the” “great merit of publicly denouncing this huge scandal,” before becoming pope.
Francis’ hopes for the future
In responding to questions about his hopes for the future, Pope Francis said simply “peace.” “Peace in the battered Ukraine and all other countries that suffer the horror of war that is always a defeat for everyone, for everyone,” the Pope explained, remembering also his visit in 2016 to the Auschwitz concentration camp. “That massacre of millions of people took place in the cowardly indifference of so many who preferred to turn the other way and say, “What do I care?,’” he lamented.
For the Church, the Bishop of Rome calls it to “go out” and “be among the people.”
“I dream of a Church without clericalism. […] Clericalism is the worst thing that can happen to the Church, worse even than in the days of corrupt popes. A priest, bishop or cardinal who gets sick from clericalism does a lot of harm to the Church. […] Even worse are the clericalized laity: they are a plague in the Church.”
He also cited the example of Venerable Italian Bishop Tonino Bello, who’s possible beatification is being studied. He “stood in the midst of his people and fought with all his might for peace,” the Pontiff said.