In the TVI/CNN Portugal interview with the Pope, broadcast in full on the night of September 5, the topics are numerous: the war in Ukraine, abuses in the Church, WYD Lisbon 2023, the Synod. Journalist María Joao Aviles interweaves these great topics with the Pope’s humor, his vacations and his tastes.
Balance, as in the sea, big waves are followed by a certain calm. This is how journalist María João Avilés could describe the TVI/CNN Portugal interview with the Pope, conducted in the hot days of August, more precisely on Thursday the 11th, and which was broadcast in its entirety this evening. There were many expectations with videos and articles that were given for this long-term conversation: from abuses in the Church, the inclusion of women in the Roman Curia or synodality, to the war in Ukraine, intergenerational dialogue, expectations for WYD or the Pontiff’s vacations. A wave of primary themes and not so much that Francis ends with his classic: “Pray for me.”
WYD in Portugal: Pope says yes or yes.
As expected, World Youth Day (WYD Lisbon 2023), which will be held in Portugal next year, begins the interview: “I plan to go. The Pope is leaving. Either Francis is going, or John XXIV is going, but the Pope is going. With this humorous tone, Francis expresses the Church’s interest in young people, which received its maximum expression with “the genius of Saint John Paul II” in his convening of these world meetings “which universalize young people” and, although they speak different languages and come from different cultures, “they meet and together realize common desires, common desires”.
The Pope said that “young people have their own language”, “progressive culture and language” and therefore it is necessary to “listen to their way of interpreting things and respond in a way that they can understand”. And after reiterating that when meeting young people “you have to be prepared that they speak another language”, he referred to the ease with which young people bridge the gap in the face of difference, they are more “willing to bring them together” because they share interests such as sports, music, art: “Young people are much braver, freer”. And SDM should have this approach, “not artificially, but through common interests”.
On sincerity and hypocrisy: a dialogue between generations
Asked what he gains as a pastor from his dialogue with young people, Francis responded with his anecdotal note about meeting at the Vatican with young people from different continents, not necessarily Catholic or practicing. “I learned there because they gave me great difficulties and I did not bother to respond to the difficulties,” said the Pope, but rather tried to “put himself” in that difficulty: “Some attacked me, but they did not offend me because they were very sincere.” The Pope is also sincere when he admits that dialogue with adults is “very difficult” because of “a double language, that is, a diplomatic language in which one says one thing and thinks another”. Therefore, he insists on the need to listen to the young people, to have a dialogue with them, because “when you give space to young people, there is sincerity”.
Dialogue between generations, a recurring theme of the Holy Father, was touched upon again: Young people must look to the future and to the past: “Young people who look only to the future are left without a livelihood. The young person must dialogue with their roots, like the tree. For a tree to bear fruit, something must come from the root. But then, do I take refuge in the root? No, because it bears no fruit. But looking at the roots, this is only given through dialogue with the elders.”
Church Abuse: ‘It’s Devilish’
After a time of ebb when Francisco spoke of his devotion to Mary, whose embryo was born in the womb of his family devoted to Mary Help of Christians, his sudden love for “the silence of Fatima – ‘which left me speechless’ – and for his mode of prayer, which had not changed but deepened, the question of abuse in the Church raised the hostility of the Pope:
“I want to be very clear with this. The abuse of men and women in the Church – abuse of power, abuse of power and sexual abuse – is monstrous.” He also adds that violence is a tragic reality, a reality of all times, that there are even high rates of prevalence in families, in sports and education, and that in the Church they have nothing to do with celibacy, as some think, but simply “the monstrosity of a man or woman of the Church who is mentally ill or evil and uses his position for personal gratification. It is diabolical.”
Francisco makes one thing clear: “Zero tolerance. Zero! A priest cannot remain a priest if he is an abuser. I can not. Because he is sick or a criminal, I don’t know. But after all, he’s sick, right? It’s human baseness, isn’t it? And the priest is there to lead people to God, not to destroy people in the name of God. Zero tolerance”
“The Church is a woman” also in the Curia
Regarding the inclusion of women in various curial positions that Francis has implemented in recent years, the Portuguese journalist Aviles goes straight to the point, asking how he views the election of three women in the Dicastery for bishops. As he has said several times, the Pope affirms that “the Church is female. The Church is female.” But it also shows that “women were missing in the normal administration of the Church” and it is no longer just about secretaries, but about positions such as that of the vice-governor of the Vatican.
Regarding the ability of women to elect bishops, Francisco shared that in his personal experience, “the most mature reports I have received to ordain seminarians are those made by women.” He further adds, “In other words, the inclusion of women is not a feminist fad, it’s an act of justice that is culturally sidelined.”
The administrative capacity, the “motherhood of women” in decision-making, especially in conflicts or difficulties, is narrated by the Pope through anecdotes and experiences, to confirm later that “women never abandon what is lost” – as a closed son—and is “capable of carrying forward that quality of God which is tenderness.” Judith in the Old Testament and the Virgin Mary are the female figures who inspired him.
Synodality: If the Holy Spirit is not there, it is a parliament
From a pause dedicated to humor, “grace” that characterizes Bergoglio, the conversation moves to the synodal process that the Church is going through at the moment and that the Pope points out as a necessity that Saint Paul VI already emphasized after the Second Vatican Council and the reason why he establishes the General Secretariat of the Synod. Fifty years after this creation, the church spoke of conciliarness.
“Sometimes it is mistaken that synodality is like a parliament where everyone says what they think. No, being a synod is something else. I go the opposite way: there is no Synod without the presence of the Holy Spirit”, explains the Pope and adds that “in the Synod there is diversity, in what everyone says, but it is the Spirit who makes the harmony”.
A trip to Kyiv or Moscow is up in the air
Obviously, the issue of the war in Ukraine had to come to the fore, especially in the face of the Pope’s numerous calls to end this diabolical conflict. However, despite expressing his desire to visit Kyiv or Moscow on several occasions, Francisco points out that “it’s up in the air, I don’t know yet” due to his knee situation. On the topic, he also predicted that the day after the interview, that is, on August 12, he would talk to President Zelensky. “I am in dialogue with them,” says the pope, referring to the presidents of Russia and Ukraine. And he recalls the visit of three cardinals to Kyiv on his behalf: “My presence there is strong.”
On what he would say to both leaders: “I don’t know, I don’t know. I have had dialogues with both of them, both of them have visited me here, not now, but before. I always believe that dialogue always moves forward. You know who can’t talk? Animals. They are pure instinct. If you go with pure instinct… Dialogue, on the other hand, is about letting go of instinct and listening. Dialogue is difficult.”
Does your life have an open window?
A touch of freshness comes near the end of the interview when the Holy Father talks about his vacations, “reading, listening to music.” He likes Wagner’s opera very much: “Yes, I put it there and while I work, I listen.” He gets up early, “like chickens”, celebrates mass and starts work: “at nine past ten I turn off the lamp”. But “look out the window”. Yes, the interview ends with a word that illuminates and reconciles the path of the Church:
“I would say this: look out the window. Look at the window. And ask yourself, “Does your life have an open window?” If you don’t, open it as soon as possible. Don’t have your nose against the wall, for a problem, for anything. Know that we are moving into the future, that there is a way. Look at the road. Don’t close yourself off. Always open window. I ask, “What is your window? What is your hope?” “Oh, I can’t remember.” Well, look for it and do it, but you can’t live without hope, you can’t live without that “elã” [impulso] hope positive. If you don’t, you’re “pushing” like a snail on yourself, and that’s sick. Open the window, this is the advice I give to prepare for Youth Day: Open the window! Look beyond the nose, beyond! Watch, open, guard the horizon. And expand the heart.