Pope, claiming to be a victim of the Holy Spirit, launches yet another vicious attack on traditionalists. He calls holy priests "Blessed Imeldas" Time for Vatican III is not yet ripe.

Full interview in English

“This started with a crazy idea and here we are.” This is how Francisco's welcome begins.  With the naturalness with which he has impregnated every corner of a pontificate that has already exceeded a decade and does not smell of wear or liquidation due to closure.  At least, that is perceived.  Not only first, but when the conversation delves into any topic.

The eyes are the mirror of the soul

Beyond the physical limitations due to his battered knee, his strength does not fail him.  Not much less enthusiasm.  For this reason, the need to ask him about his resignation does not even fly over in the conversation with him.  He neither sees nor expects it.  Above all, for the lucidity and agility to support a third grade, for several hours, jumping from one topic to another.  He knows them all, like a village priest accustomed to dealing the same with a woman who goes out of his way from sunup to sundown to support her family as with a 'paco' dealer who tries to hook the kids from the neighbourhood .

Francis responds.  He ponders.  He asks.  He proposes.  he jokes.  And he laughs.  A lot.  He does not relativize, but he does give the right importance to the problems that arise.  Forceful with everything that accumulates woodworm.  'Merciful' when someone opens their heart outside of journalistic interrogation.  He caresses wounds.  consoles He is going to conjugate action verbs.  But also contemplation.  He listens.  He welcomes.  Above all, he welcomes.  From minute zero.  To make the other see that he does not feel strange or distanced or judged.  It is the perception of the 'Vida Nueva' team as soon as they break the barrier that is inevitable to raise when one knows one is received by the successor of Pedro.  He is in charge of blurring what sounds at a distance to transform it into a bridge.

On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the magazine, Francisco shares a table with those who, day by day, week by week, carry out both the print and digital editions of this communication project that began when a breeze began to blow that anticipated a gale.  reconcile and that today seems to be renewed with a fresh wind that continues to point to Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospel.  Without rules of the game or restrictions, a dialogue begins to flow in several sessions of a meeting in which the look at the past, the analysis of the present and the dreams of the future intertwine.

In the same way, the concerns of those who speak not only as an editor, but also as an ordinary Christian alternate.  Or as a non-believer.  “We are hairy rabble”, someone comments by way of a letter of introduction in Santa Marta.  Because those who speak are those who are on the job: answering the telephone to subscribers -who sometimes call with applause and other times with a slap on the wrist-, or shouting so that advertisers trust another stretch of shared path . One by one, the summoned present themselves.  Someone blurts out that, since that white smoke on March 13, 2013, they believe something else in the Holy Spirit.  The questioned person picks up the glove, as if he also had to justify his presence in the room.  Of course, putting on a rogue face.

FRANCISCO: I'll tell you something.  I am a victim of the Holy Spirit…he thought he would come home after the papal election.  I even left my sermon ready for Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday in Buenos Aires.  During the conclave there were several revealing details, but I didn't really notice anything at the time.  Then I knew how to see them, after time.  I didn't even feel worried when the first ballot took place and some took my name.

That night I went up to the fifth floor of Casa Santa Marta to take the Cardinal of Havana, Jaime Ortega, the notes he asked me about the words I said during the general congregations, when I spoke of the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing, of the danger of a self-referential Church and spiritual worldliness, as well as the need to go out to the peripheries.  When giving him the role, he told me: “Oh, how cute!  I take with me a memory of the Pope”.  I didn't even notice the comment at the time.  When I take the elevator to go down to the second floor, where I was, Cardinal Errázuriz comes up on the fourth floor and tells me: "Have you prepared the speech yet?" "Which?".  "The one you have to say on the balcony." I also ignored it, like it was nothing.

In the same way, something happened in the dining room the next day at lunch.  Another cardinal started talking to me and asked me to come over to speak to a group of European voters: “Your Eminence, come on, we want to learn more about Latin America.  Talk to us." I, 'salame', did not realize that they were doing an exam.  The climax was when, afterwards, a cardinal friend of mine approached me to ask about my health.  I denied him some rumours about me, without giving it importance.  So much so, that I went to take a quiet nap.  Later, I went to vote as one more.  Before arriving at the Sistine Chapel, I met Cardinal Ravasi and we got talking as we walked around.  I confessed to him that he used his books to teach and, from then on, we began to talk avoiding everything, until we heard a voice from afar: “Are you going in or not?  Because I close the door…”.  We almost ran out...

I'm telling you because one, deep down, is a victim of Providence, of the Holy Spirit.  That's how I entered the conclave and that's how I left.  In the first vote of the afternoon, when everything was almost obvious, Cardinal Hummes, who was behind me, approached me and told me: "Don't worry, that's how the Holy Spirit works." And, when I was already elected in the final vote, it was when he told me what I have already said so many times: "Don't forget the poor." Conclusion: I share this so that you can see that the Holy Spirit exists and I believe that He gave me.

They continue to make themselves known who are in the room.  An operational space, the place where the Council of Cardinals meets.  Today there is no purple pantone, but there are voices with different accents.  Because at the summit of Vida Nueva with Francisco are the Vatican supporters of the house with residence in Italy.  Also those who report the reality of America from the delegations located in Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.  Some, in person.  Others, from the screen, with a time difference that asks for tequila, coffee and mate.  Those who are before the Pope give him a personal gift: a story, a cross, an old edition of 'The Imitation of Christ', by Thomas of Kempis... And some books.

FRANCIS: The Synod was the dream of Paul VI.  When the Second Vatican Council ended, he realized that the Church in the West had lost the synodal dimension.  That is why he created the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, to start working on it.  When the 50 years were over, that document signed by me came out, which I prepared together with a group of theologians, in which the synodal doctrine is clear and anchored.

I recently called a convent to speak with a nun.  Everything was going well until she told me: “But this Synod, won't our doctrine change us?” And I answered: "Tell me, dear, who put that into your head?" It is about moving forward to recover that synodal dimension that the Eastern Church has and we lost.

I remember that, in the Synod of 2001 [on 'The bishop: servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world'], he had to be secretary.  In the afternoons, they brought me the materials from the groups and I stayed preparing the votes.  Then, the cardinal in charge of coordination came, reviewed the papers and began to say: "This is not voted on... This, neither." I would reply: “Your Eminence, this came out of the groups…”.  But things were 'purified'.  We have been advancing and, today, everything is voted and listened to.

An example is the Amazon Synod [held in 2019].  Everyone had been talking about the viri probati and, once inside, we saw how the action of the Holy Spirit progressively changed it.  They talked about the 'viri probati', yes, but also about other important things, such as the work of catechists, permanent deacons, regional seminaries or the involvement of priests in the territories.  They were advances that came from within and, finally, the question of the 'viri probati' stayed there.

There is something that I constantly repeat: in the Synod, the protagonist is the Holy Spirit.  He who does not believe in Him and does not pray during the Synod, cannot go anywhere.  He doesn't come out.  He will come up with an ideology, a political position, but nothing true without a climate of prayer.  That is why I insist that, in the work method, during all the sessions in the assembly, after every three interventions, there must be a moment of prayer and silence, to meditate.  In the Synod, the protagonist is the Holy Spirit.  And, if we are faithful, the Holy Spirit will move us where we cannot even imagine.

We also have the example of the Synod on the Family.  From the outside, communion for the divorced was imposed on us as a great theme.  In this case, there was that of the psychology of the wave, which sought to expand.  But, fortunately, the result went much further... much further.

QUESTION.- This Synod of Synodality seems to cover everything: from proposals for a liturgical renewal to the need for more evangelizing communities, going through a true preferential option for the poor, a real commitment in terms of integral ecology, welcoming the LGTBI collectives… Was it ever considered giving it the form of the Third Vatican Council?

ANSWER.- Things are not ripe for a Third Vatican Council.  And it is not necessary at this time either since Vatican II has not yet been launched.  This was very risky and you have to put it into action.  But there is always that fear that secretly spread to all of us from the "Old Catholics" who, already at Vatican I, called themselves "depositories of the true faith." All these 'bad lactose' proposals must be lowered with clear arguments.  It is important to go out to meet sophistry.

The young priests...

Francisco is not, in any way, oblivious to the resistance to the reform that he has in hand.  He worries her, but he doesn't get over her either.  When he addresses this question, he does so with the serenity of one who knows that what he is proposing is not an afterthought, but a conciliar landing that finds no clue in parishes, dioceses and various episcopates.

A priest who lives in Santa Marta and who has joined the Vida Nueva de carambola group speaks.  Things of Providence.  The priest, who has one foot in the Curia and the other in his diocese, echoes to the Pope himself this opposition that he feels in Rome... and far from Rome: "I am concerned about the rigidity of young priests...".

FRANCISCO: That rigidity is from good people who want to serve the Lord.  They react this way because they are afraid of a time of insecurity that we are experiencing, and that fear does not let them walk.  We must remove this fear and help them.  On the other hand, that shell hides a lot of rot.  I have already had to intervene in some dioceses in various countries with similar parameters.  Behind this traditionalism, we have discovered serious moral problems and vices, double lives.  We all know of bishops who, since they needed priests, have resorted to people whom they had thrown out of other seminaries for being immoral.

I don't like rigidity because it is a bad symptom of inner life.  The pastor cannot afford to be rigid.  The pastor has to be at hand for whatever comes.

Someone told me recently that the rigidity of young priests arises because they are tired of the current relativism, but this is not always the case.  I ask the bishops to be careful with this drift and to be clear that not only the "Blessed Imeldas" are the best priests.  If someone makes a 'holy' face at you and turns his eyes away, he is suspicious.  We need normal seminarians, with their problems, who play soccer, who don't go to the neighbourhoods to dogmatize... It helped me to ask for information from the women of the parishes, the curates and the brothers where the seminarians went...

Q.- Once those priests identified as “rigid” are ordained, how are they accompanied to join Vatican II?  Because, deep down, they suffer from not being able to welcome what is coming...

R.- There is a need for those shepherds with dolls, those priests who are alive and past middle age.  They have the experience and patience to accompany you.  Slowly, they 'soften' them.  When they see that welcoming the Council is not a threat to the Magisterium, they 'soften'.  But it is not easy, because clericalism is always there.

There are people who live trapped in a theology manual, unable to get into trouble and make theology move forward.  Stagnant theology reminds me that stagnant water is the first to be corrupted, and stagnant theology creates corruption.  Both left and right movements that get stuck create corruption.

I remember that when Father Arrupe said that the Pope had to intervene on the Marxist analysis of reality in the Theology of Liberation, they came up against a theology that was stagnating and deprived of the richness of what was a Theology of the most serious Liberation, created by Gustavo Gutiérrez.  By the way, the other day I saw a photo of him when he turned 95 and how Cardinal Pedro Barreto gave him his pectoral….

Q.- Have you already been able to read the report he commissioned on the Spanish seminaries?

A.- The first thing I have to say is that the two Uruguayan bishops who travelled to Spain –Arturo Fajardo and Milton Tróccoli– did an excellent job; it is the best we have.  With this idea ahead, and now I am speaking in general, beyond Spain, it is clear that a seminary with two, three or five seminarians does not work.  The big seminaries have to make small communities, and those with few candidates have to group together.  We must resize and generate a sensible community dynamic.  The number is key.

On the other hand, we have to emphasize a humanistic training.  Let us open ourselves to a universal cultural horizon that humanizes them.  Seminars cannot be ideological kitchens.  The seminaries are to train pastors, not ideologues.  The problem of seminaries is serious.

Q.- We confessed to the Pope that a couple of seminaries have withdrawn from Vida Nueva because they consider that "its contents are not suitable for a house of priestly formation." Immediately afterwards, another confession arises from the comment that drops a staff: "If the Pope reads New Life, that's how the Pope will be...".  On the other hand, there are many others who fully trust this magazine.  How do you see the Spanish bishops?

A.- They are good shepherds.  You are already seeing that in the new appointments of bishops, not only in Spain, but throughout the world, I am applying a general criterion: once a bishop is residential and assigned, he is already married to that diocese.  If you look at another, it's 'episcopal adultery'.  Whoever seeks a promotion commits 'episcopal adultery'.  For this reason, I am asking you to look for auxiliary priests or bishops.  An auxiliary bishop is a widower who left his parish, but who is now in no man's land, accompanying the residential.


Q.- Why don't you come to Spain?

A.- I am not going to go to any big country in Europe until I finish with the small ones.  I started with Albania and although I went to Strasbourg, I did not go to France.  Although I am going to Marseille, I am not going to France.

Q.- Do you have any planned trips beyond those officially announced?

A.- We are working in Kosovo, but it is not defined.

Q.- And Argentina?  Are you really going?

A.- I can confirm that it is on the programme.  We will see if it can be done, once the election year is over.  Once the elections are over, it can be done.  Right now I only think of Argentina... and maybe Uruguay.  There have already been several attempts before, but the elections frustrated the visit.

Q.- How are the peace negotiations going before the war in Ukraine?

A.- Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, is working hard as the person in charge of the dialogues.  He has already gone to Kyiv, where the idea of ​​victory is maintained without opting for mediation.  He was also in Moscow, where he found an attitude that we could describe as diplomatic on the part of Russia.  The most significant advance that has been achieved has to do with the return of Ukrainian children to their country.  We are doing everything in our power to ensure that each family member who claims the return of her children can do so.

For this, I am thinking of appointing a permanent representative to serve as a bridge between the Russian and Ukrainian authorities.  For me, in the midst of the pain of war, it is a big step.  After Cardinal Zuppi's visit to Washington, the next scheduled stopover is Beijing, because both also hold the key to lowering the tension of the conflict.  All these initiatives is what I call "a peace offensive." In addition, for November, before the United Nations Climate Summit is held in Dubai, we are organizing a peace meeting with religious leaders in Abu Dhabi.  Cardinal Pietro Parolin is coordinating this initiative, which seeks to take place outside the Vatican, in a neutral territory that invites everyone to meet.

Q.- And in Nicaragua?  What more can be done for the people and for the imprisoned bishop, Rolando Álvarez?

R.- We continue, we are trying to negotiate.

Q.- In your recent meeting with Lula da Silva in the Vatican, did you ask him to intercede with Daniel Ortega in order to free the bishop?

A.- Yes, I asked him.


See also Interview with the Pope about his dreams.

Cathcon: Lord give us priests, Lord give us holy priests, Lord give us many holy priests.  Lord give us again just one holy Pope.


P. O'Brien said…
A "victim of the Holy Spirit"? More likely, a co-conspirator with the St. Gallen group.