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What will book-interview with Pope Francis reveal?


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 03/14/24

In excerpts published by an Italian newspaper of the Pope's new "autobiography," he talks about blessings, his youth, and more ... The book will be released March 19 in English.

The refusal of some bishops to apply Fiducia supplicans is not “the antechamber to schism,” Pope Francis said in excerpts from the book interview being styled as his autobiography “Life: My Story Through History” (Harper Collins). The excerpts were published in exclusive by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on March 14, 2023.

The Pontiff also talked about his life in Argentina, his relationship with Benedict XVI, and criticisms he has received. 

In the book, which will be available in English and Italian on March 19, the Pope explained that he wants a “a mother Church” that “welcomes everyone.” This includes, he stressed, those who “have been judged by us in the past,” including “homosexuals and transsexuals who seek the Lord but are rejected or persecuted.”

The Pope defended the “blessing of couples in irregular situations,” which he authorized with Fiducia supplicans last December. However, he assured that the refusal of certain bishops to apply this directive — as is the case with the clergy in Africa — is not “the antechamber to schism,” because the “Church’s doctrine is not brought into question.”

Although the Pope reiterated that gay marriage is not possible, he said that civil unions could be, considering it “right” that homosexual people have “the same legal protections as everyone else.” This was the position the future pope took when Argentina was in the midst of a battle over changing the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future pontiff was vocal in the effort to protect marriage in his country.

In the book-interview, he insisted on the importance of the Church reaching out to people who are “marginalized,” as Jesus did, saying that this is what it must do today with members of the “LGBTQ+ community.”

In particular, he invited priests to welcome those seeking to be baptized.

His vocation as a missionary in Japan

Remembering his past in Argentina, the Pope recalled the day when, at the age of eight, he learned that the Americans had dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He denounced the use of these “murderous weapons” as a “crime against humanity, against human dignity and against any possibility of a future in our shared home.”

The situation of the Japanese in the post-War period affected the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who later tried to become a missionary in Japan, but was refused by the Jesuits on account of his health, which was “a little precarious at the time.”

“If they had sent me on a mission there, my life might have taken a different turn, and maybe some people in the Vatican would have been happier!” he joked. 

His youthful “minor lapse”

The Pontiff also looked back on his youth, explaining that he had a girlfriend “who worked in the world of cinema” before his vocation. He also explained that he had a “minor lapse” during his seminary years, when he met a young woman at an uncle’s wedding.

This girl had made his “head spin” with her beauty and intelligence, to the point of interfering with his prayers for an entire week.

“Fortunately it passed, and I was able to dedicate my mind and body to my vocation,” he concluded, explaining that it’s “normal” and human for a seminarian to experience this kind of hesitation.

The accusations of Communism

Before becoming a seminarian, the Pope confided that he also enjoyed a wonderful friendship with a woman named Esther, a chemistry teacher who was “a Communist through and through, and an atheist, but a respectful one.”

They discussed a lot, but he denied embracing any Marxist ideology. “Talking about the poor doesn’t necessarily mean one is a communist,” he insisted.

He was surprised that some people even accused him of being an “anti-pope.”

“Why? Because I don’t wear the papal red shoes!” he asserted, referring to the traditional papal footwear he decided to stop wearing at the start of his pontificate.

The Argentine dictatorship

In the book, the Pontiff recalls the 1976 coup d’état that installed the dictatorship in Argentina, saying he suspects that the “secret services” had him under surveillance at the time. He explained that he came to the aid of seminarians pursued by the regime and even once gave his identity card to a boy who looked like him, so that he could flee the country.

Pope Francis, then superior of the Jesuits in his country, claimed to have fought for the two Jesuits who had been kidnapped by the regime, Fathers Orlando Yorio and Ferenc Jalics – some having questioned his actions in this case.

He explained that he had obtained their release from General Videla by asking the dictator’s chaplain to call in sick so that he could replace him at Mass.

On the other hand, Jorge Mario Bergoglio did not obtain the release of his Communist friend Esther, who was tortured and then thrown out of a plane. This period, he said, was one of “generational genocide” for his country.

His relationship with Argentine presidents

The Pope deplored the fact that some people later tried to “put a noose around [his] neck” by accusing him of having collaborated during the dictatorship, which he described as the “revenge on the part of leftists.” These accusations, he believes, were later exploited by those close to former president Cristina Kirchner.

Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, has invited the Pope to visit his country, which he has not done since the start of his pontificate. While he has expressed a desire to make such a trip, the 87-year-old Pontiff explained in the book that he does not know whether he will be able to do so in the next few years.

The time in Cordoba

He recalled a period he spent “exiled” in Cordoba – as he was dismissed as head of the Jesuits, because he was considered too authoritarian – and claims to have experienced a “purification” through contact with the poor and sick. He recalled that the other Jesuits thought he had gone “mad” when he offered to cook for the wedding of the niece of the handyman at the convent where he was staying.

Benedict XVI used against him

The Pope also returns to the figure of Benedict XVI, saying that his image was “exploited for ideological and political ends by unscrupulous people” who apparently did not accept his resignation.

Right from the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis asked his predecessor not to live “out of view, as he had originally planned,” but to continue to participate in the life of the Church, in order to avoid certain people using it against him.

“This decision didn’t achieve much, unfortunately, because there was no shortage of disputes over the next 10 years, and they harmed both sides,” the Pope said.

No “pope emeritus” for Francis

Aware that he is criticized by some, he confided that he has been able to get past most of the attacks, but has been hurt by those who claim he is “destroying the papacy.”

“What can I say today? That my vocation is to be a priest,” he declared.

He explained that he considers the pontifical ministry to be “ad vitam” (for life) and sees “no justification for giving it up,” although he acknowledged that things could be different in the event of “serious physical impediment.” He explained that if this were to happen, he would not bear the title of “pope emeritus,” but would move to the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore), in Rome, to resume his ministry as “confessor” and to “give communion to the sick.”

For the time being, however, the Pontiff assured that this is only a “distant possibility.”

“I truly do not have any cause serious enough to make me think of resigning,” he insisted, claiming that he is in “good health” and still has “many projects to bring to fruition.”

Abortion, a “criminal act”

“I shall never tire of saying that abortion is murder, a criminal act: There is no other word for it. It involves discarding, eliminating a human life that is innocent,” said the Pope. “It is vital that we defend and promote objections on grounds of objection,” he declared.

Finally, he deplored surrogacy, the “inhuman practice that is more and more widespread” of “renting out uteruses,” which treats children “like commodities.”

Why he no longer watches soccer on TV

Although he loves soccer, the Pope hasn’t watched television since July 15, 1990. He explained that on that day some not very appropriate scenes appeared on television resulting in him deciding to never watch it again, considering it incompatible with his vocation as a priest.

ChurchPope FrancisVatican
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