Interview with the Pope about his dreams

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio began to arrange the office in his own way, he placed a picture of a sleeping St Joseph on a chest of drawers next to his desk. With a few papers underneath. They were personal commissions from Mary's husband. Some time later, Francisco would confess that he preferred to put it in her hands because, although he was late in finishing the work like any good craftsman, he always finished his work with the utmost care and perfection.

Ten years after his arrival in Rome, this Saint Joseph has a mountain of requests under his pedestal. But he continues to dream. As does the Argentinian pontiff. The verb "to dream" creeps into his speeches time and time again. From that "I dream of a poor Church and for the poor" to his constant invitation to young people to "dream big". He dreams with his eyes fixed on God and his feet on the ground.

QUESTION: What are God's dreams today?

ANSWER: There is something we don't know about St. Joseph. I am convinced that he had insomnia. He was unable to sleep because he feared that, every time he fell asleep, God would change his plans through dreams... (He laughs) Precisely, the list of the new cardinals - most of them, the less obvious ones - came to me during the night, with his insomnia. That is, as if I were dreaming.

Now seriously speaking, a person who stops dreaming in life is a dull, wrinkled person. There is always something to dream about. That's how I see it. Sometimes it's plans; sometimes it's projections... What do I know! But you have to dream.

When you dream, you open the doors and windows wide and you are defenceless. If you don't dream, you don't have a future; you have a repetitive, boring future, boring! That's the word, there are so many boring people! So many people who lack nothing in life. And they are bored. They don't project.

For example, a child opens doors; a child forces you to dream always. There is a poem by Gerardo Diego: 'El brindis'. Read it. It is exquisitely beautiful. He wrote it for the banquet to celebrate his appointment as professor. And he talks about his future as a teacher. Very nice! He toasts that one day he will have a disciple. He dreams of his alter ego, of that which will be closer to him and will go further: it's the dream of a father with a son. It's like going beyond the empirical limit, beyond the constatation. It is that capacity to dream. We could say something like: "I see it now, but I dreamt it before". It's the dream of a man who wants someone to move forward, to create and open horizons.

Sometimes, when you dream too much, you go off the deep end and fall in line. It's the risk of dreaming badly, but then you correct yourself afterwards: "How nice it would be if...". That would be is to open the door and the window.

Sometimes I ask someone who comes to confession with a problem: "Do you dream, do you imagine nice things? If you have children, "Do you think about what your children are going to be like tomorrow? If not, we fall into the dynamic of commercial activity, and that's bad because you get wrinkled, you stop dreaming. When you get the bug to win, it closes you down. Because you only look outwards for your own interest and not for the contemplation of dreams.

Opening up to the other

Q.- Do you still dream of that "poor Church for the poor"?

A.- The expression I once used for the Church is "going out"; that is to say, you don't know what is waiting for you, but it is not closed within itself. Not dreaming leads to meanness, to the inability to be generous, to the inability to give alms, for example. I like to ask people when they confess: "Do you give alms, and do you look people who give you alms in the eye? Then the other person starts to hesitate. "And do you touch their hand when they give you alms, or do you throw them the coin and walk away? It is at that moment that you really see what kind of people you have in front of you. If people are able to open up to each other, they open up to the possibility of dreaming. Opening up takes you out of defensive schemes, out of closed-mindedness.

Q.- What does Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio dream of today, at this moment in time?

A.- With a Church on the periphery. In fact, the next consistory is a dream along these lines. If we look at the number of Curia cardinals there were ten years ago and there are now, or the reduction in the number of cardinals linked to historical episcopal sees, it speaks of that periphery that is now in the centre. There is the new Cardinal of Juba (South Sudan), who would never have been considered, or the appointment of the Archbishop of Penang (Malaysia), who many do not even know where he falls.

That is the Church of which I dream and which, moreover, is the Church of the Acts of the Apostles: Parthians, Medes, Elamites... That morning of Pentecost, when everyone spoke their own language, but all understood each other. That has to happen now: everyone speaks their own language, but we all understand each other, even if one emphasises this, the other that... I believe that this is the Church we must seek, and not be scandalised, because we have so confused the essential with the accidental! When you devolve, you make a fool of yourself. And there are people who sometimes lose their sense of the ridiculous... When the actress Anna Magnani wanted to have cosmetic surgery because she had wrinkles, she said: "No, it took me years to get these wrinkles! And that's one of life's revenges: falling into ridicule without realising it.

Q.- It's complicated to dream in a world like today's, with a Third World War in instalments?

A.- Yes, it is complicated, yes. The tragic dimension of today is serious. Since the end of World War II, there have been conflicts in various places. Now we are facing the war in Ukraine, which frightens us because it is so close. But who thinks about Yemen, who thinks about Syria, who thinks about all those places in Africa, for example in Kivu, in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo where I could not go? We are at war all the time, but because it is far away....

In the same way, it seems natural to us, for example, that the Rohingya are wandering around the world because nobody wants to receive them. Only what is close by scares us. Sometimes, I look at the dome of St. Peter's and I say to myself: "If one of these madmen drops a bomb here, it's all over". However, even in these circumstances, there is reason for hope. Recently, a ship loaded with weapons arrived in the port of Genoa. The cargo had to be transferred from a relatively small ship to a larger one to go to Yemen. But the stevedores did not want to load it. It happened once, but it is a sign.

Big dreamers

Q.- Who is your saint next door today?

A.- I am very impressed here, for example, by the lives of the gendarmes, who are men who make sacrifices. For example, Bruno, who speaks perfect Spanish, is with us today. I joke with him: "You learned Spanish in prison... because you married a Spanish woman". There are people of God in Santa Marta. There is another worker that I call 'the silent one'. He is the one who keeps the house quiet: if a glass breaks, he goes; if a pipe breaks, he goes; if the heating doesn't work, he goes... Without making a sound, he solves everything. He is a man of God. I see him pray sometimes. He is a man of God. There are people of God here.

Q.- The dream you expressed ten years ago of a Church "field hospital", is it being fulfilled?

A.- There are places where yes, it depends on the ordinaries. Sometimes, the Church becomes exquisite in wanting to be a "field hospital" and it is mistaken because it speeds up. Thus, we enter into a drift in which we give a solution that is right in the direction, but solutions are not taken from the contemplation of the Gospel. You cannot reform a Church outside the inspiration of the Gospel. Because they are very effective, we fall into deviations.

That is a very big trap: the solutions they seek do not come from the Gospel. They come from good common sense, from the human possibility of what needs to be done, but they have no evangelical expression. They go for the quick fix. And they are right to want to solve a problem, because people are leaving. I think this is what is happening in the so-called German Synodal Path.

I am still committed to the Synodal process that St Paul VI set in motion. On the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, it was ripe for a document. A team of leading theologians shaped it and I supported it, because it allows us the way to get there. In the last ten years some things have been perfected, but not many. For example, before, it had not even occurred to ask the laity. If it was a Synod for bishops only, let the bishops vote, full stop. And all those who come from outside, let them be observers.

During the Synod for the Amazon, in the 'break', there is an office for the Pope next to the hall. I went there. On the first day, the women started to show up, with the issue of voting. That was the starting point for a sincere dialogue. From there, I asked the theologians, who did a quick study and said: "Yes, women can vote". But the Synod had already started. If they are members, they can vote. And I said to myself: "Doing this now might be scandalous, I'll leave it for the next one...", which is now. The dream matured until it took shape.

Q.- You steer a ship of 1.3 billion Catholics, with constant serious problems on your desk, many expect big changes... So much responsibility on your shoulders, doesn't it keep you awake at night?

A.- Sleep has never taken it away from me. It's a grace: I arrive so tired that I sleep. Thank God, I did not fall into the temptation of omnipotence, of believing that I can fix everything. Of course, as a good Jesuit, I wake up very early to waste more time...

Q.- You are very bold when proposing changes, but are you going to leave any dream unproposed because you are too daring?

R.- So, suddenly, it does not occur to me to have left anything in the pipeline. When reforms come up, it comes out instinctively. Of course, when something occurs to me and it crosses my mind, the first thing that comes out is a "no, it can't be". But then I think about it, I consult it and I see if it can be carried out or not. You have to measure how far you can go over the limit and how far you cannot. And there is a certain impotence there, but I think that's good, because it prevents you from believing yourself to be a god or someone almighty. They are the limits that history, life is putting on you... For example, I have not yet dared to put an end to court culture in the Curia.

Q.- And how do those proposals materialize that part of the Church is not yet prepared to assume?

R.- With the training and going abroad. One has to go out and be outside. In Argentina, I got a little allergic when I saw the shepherds who looked at their navels, looking inward. I am thinking of a bishop, a great theologian, but as a pastor he was nothing. He always dropped messages of the type: “Be careful, you have to say the mass like this, that this, that that…”. The poor priests were under the rule of that man. There are pastors who are not pastors.

Q.- Did you ever dream of being a Pope?

A.- It didn't even happen to me. When John Paul II died, I was on his way to the shantytown of Barracas. He died while I was on the bus. I celebrated Mass and sat with the people. They started talking about how the pope is chosen. And an old woman tells me: "Father, can they make you a Pope?" I say: "Yes, everyone." "Well, then, some advice," he told me, "if your going to be a Pope, buy a puppy." "What for?" I asked him. "Before eating, give it to the puppy."

On February 11, 2013, the very day Benedict announced his resignation, I had scheduled a mass in the parish of Lourdes, in Caballito. It is done in the street because there are many people... When the Eucharist ended, I said: "Let us pray for Pope Benedict XVI, who today presented his resignation, a Hail Mary to the Virgin." And an old woman shouts from behind: "I hope they make you a Pope!"

Q.- And the dream came true

A.- That was not a dream, it was a scream (he laughs). The old ones are wise. You have to listen to the old ones.

Q.- On the night of March 13, 2013, when he was elected, did he have time to dream or, when he woke up, did he say to himself in fear: "The one that fell on me"?

A.- That night I slept like a log! After being chosen, there was a great banquet. He was already prepared. I tell it how it happened. After speaking to the people, after praying for the previous Pope, I went out and there was an elevator waiting just for me, so that I could travel alone. "I go with everyone." He came out of me. When I got downstairs, there was the limo. And I said again: "I go in the bus with everyone." That's when I realized that a change of things was waiting for me.

After the banquet, I called the nuncio in Argentina and told him: “Say that no one travels”, because I imagined that the bishops would want to come, and I suggested that the money for the ticket be given to the poor. Then I called Benedict XVI to say hello. At first he didn't answer, because he was watching the television, but when I managed to talk to him, I noticed that he was happy.

The next morning I couldn't put on the collar of my cassock, I don't know why. I went out and there was the emeritus of Palermo, and I told him: “Help me”. "Yes, of course!" He answered me. In the same way, that day I went down to eat in the dining room with everyone. And there began the common life that I continue to lead today. The change in ways of proceeding happened on its own, I let my thing come up. I didn't change my lifestyle and that helped me. It was an intuition of the moment. With that naturalness I live things and tell them.



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