“The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.” So Pope Francis says in the English translation of yet another interview, this one given to Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica.
He says it in the context of the secular interviewer joking that people said the pope would try to convert him. Frankly, the pope says, per the La Repubblica translation: “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas.”
He respects this man and his freedom. He makes proposals. He tells the truth. And he prays Christ is always present, the Spirit guiding, that this man and all the world will come to know the love of God the Father.
“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good,” he says. That’s not throwing out doctrine and tradition, but respecting the different experiences of men and women in the world today, many, even Catholics, who don’t know their Catechism. Consider the reaction to Pope Francis’s comments about loving every individual when asked about our debates of the day over homosexuality. This isn’t “anything goes,” but it’s an exercise in mercy and justice.
How justice? People cannot embrace what they do not know! The Church’s evangelical mission is to open hearts and teach, so that women and men may know Christ, that they may know his mercy and know they are loved. In this latest interview, Pope Francis says:
The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crashed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.
And he gives a preview of the reforms to come in the Vatican. He warns that “bosses” can become narcissists. And even in the Church: He observes that that Church leaders are not immune to this, falling into the temptation of being ”flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.” Further, he warns that a “Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us.”
Francis, rebuild my Church. This may just be this pope’s mission. And so he does, urging us in the urgent, fundamental work of renewal.
I expect there will be much attention paid to his reflections during the course of this new interview on a Communist teacher he had – whom he was not tempted by, learned from, and loved. And as he continues, in his words on politics, you see Catholic social teaching’s dual reflections on solidarity and subsidiarity elucidated:
Personally I think so-called unrestrained liberalism only makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker and excludes the most excluded. We need great freedom, no discrimination, no demagoguery and a lot of love. We need rules of conduct and also, if necessary, direct intervention from the state to correct the more intolerable inequalities.
The fallen-away Catholic interviewer, now a non-believer, concludes: “If the Church becomes like him and becomes what he wants it to be, it will be an epochal change.” What the world doesn’t seem to fully understand is this is not about Bergoglio, this is not about Pope Francis, this is about the Pastor of his soul. He re-proposes Christ, by loving like him, in Him. That’s the Christian call. He’s being Christian. And yes, that’s quite different from what many of us Christians do every day. But it’s doable! It’s an obligation! If we believe.
It’s another fascinating interview, where Pope Francis truly encounters – is present to – his interviewer, as he offers questions coming from the heart and shares options. This is the culture of encounter he keeps talking about. And don’t take other people’s read of it. It’s here. And shorter than the other one!
The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood. All are brothers and all children of God. Abba, as he called the Father. I will show you the way, he said. Follow me and you will find the Father and you will all be his children and he will take delight in you. Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.
He’s saying: This is real. For real life. Consider it. Have you really got a better way? Let me know about it, we can talk.