Poverty, religious fundamentalism and war. Environment, Vatileaks and the apostolic journeys. These are some of the topics discussed by Pope Francis during his return flight from the journey to Africa, in the customary dialog with the journalists on the plane. The Pontiff tackled the issue of poverty in the world in an “economic system whose center is the money-god” and where “80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 17 per cent of the population”. If humanity does not change, he observed, there “will continue to be miseries, tragedies, wars, children who die of hunger, and injustice”. Talking about the journey he had just concluded, he said he had seen hospitality, besides the awareness and happiness of “feeling visited” in the three nations. “Moreover – he continued – every country has its own identity. Kenya is a little more modern and developed; Uganda has the identity of the martyrs: the people of Uganda, both Catholic and Anglican, venerates martyrs… whereas the Central African Republic has desire for peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness”. During the press conference, he went back again to the question of Africa, explaining that this continent is a “victim” and a “martyr” because it has ‘always been exploited by other powers” that have deprived it of “great wealth”.
Answering a question about Vatileaks, he stressed the importance of a professional press that “must say everything” – corruption and injustices – “without falling in the three most common sins: disinformation – saying one half and not saying the other half”, slander, and libel. “Besides, a truly professional journalist – he added – apologizes when s/he is wrong: Well, I thought…, then I have realized that was not the case; but that’s fine”. He also commented on the appointments of monsignor Balda and Chaouqui. “I believe a mistake was made; monsignor Vallejo Balda entered for the charge he used to have and has had till now. He was secretary of the Prefecture for the economic affairs: he entered. How did she enter, I am not sure but I do not think I will be wrong if I say this – but I am not sure – that she was introduced by him, as a woman who knew the world of commercial relations”.
The two of them, he explained, “had worked; when the work finished, the members of that committee called Cosea remained in some charges, in the Vatican. Vallejo Balda, the same. And madam Chaouqui has not remained in the Vatican because she entred for the Commission, and has not stayed afterwards. Some people say she got angry because of this, but the judges will tell us the truth about her intentions, as they did”. Then Francis went back to the problem of corruption by observing that “thirteen days before Saint John Paul II died”, during the Stations of the Cross, the then Cardinal Ratzinger had been the first one to speak of the “dirt of the Church”. “Corruption – he stressed – comes from afar”. With regard to possible countermeasures the Holy Father said ironically: “I thank God because Lucrezia Borgia is not here! “. He has also mentioned that he plans on “continuing with the cardinals”, the so-called C9, “with the Commission to clean up”. In response to another question on religious fundamentalism he highlighted that, according to him, the religious dignitaries should not enter politics, but continue to be “priests, shepherds, imams, rabbis” since this is their vocation. “But this is indirect politics – he added – with the preaching of the values, true values, and one of the greatest values is brotherhood among us”. Religious fundamentalism, moreover, “is not religious”, “it is a disease there is in all religions”. At any rate, he said in response to another question, Muslims “have many values” and “we can dialog”.
Precisely because of this, “you cannot erase a religion because there are some groups – or many groups – at a certain point in history, that are fundamentalist”. In fact, “there have always been religion wars in history, always. We have to ask forgiveness as well, huh? Caterina de’ Medici wasn’t a saint, huh? And what about the Thirty Years War, that night of St. Bartholomew? We must ask forgiveness as well, don’t we? “Today I visited a mosque – he continued – I prayed; the imam wanted to come with me to the small stadium where there were many people who had not been able to come in… And in the popemobile there were the Pope and the Imam. We were able to talk”.
A journalist asked him a question about AIDS that is ravaging Africa and the use of condoms for its prevention. “The question – he answered – seems too small and it seems also a partial question to me”. “Yes, it’s one of the methods,” he continued, and the morals of the Church are facing a “a perplexity. It is the fifth or the sixth commandment? Shall we defend life or shall sexual intercourse be open to life? According to the Successor of Peter the problem is wider: “This question makes me think of what has been done to Jesus once: ‘Tell me, Master, it is lawful to heal on Saturday?. It is compulsory to heal!”
“Let’s talk – he continued – about whether it is fine to use this or that patch for a minor injury. The large wound is social injustice, the injustice of the environment, the injustice of exploitation and malnutrition”. And again: “Why do people continue to produce arms and traffic arms? Wars are the biggest reason of mortality…”. War, he added, “is a bargain”, “a network of interests”, a sin which destroys humanity. To this regard, he recalled his speech at the United Nations and in Kenya: “Let your work not be mere declarative nominalism, let it be effective: let peace be made!”
He commented also on the climate change conference that is taking place in France: “We are on the brink of a suicide, to put it in strong words. And I am sure that almost all of those who are in Paris, the Cop21, have this awareness and want to do something”. Finally, they asked the Bishop of Rome a few news about his upcoming journeys and in particular about the one to Mexico. “You know, journeys, at my age, they are not good – he replicated -. If it were not for the fact that there is the Vergin Mary there, I would not travel to Mexico City, following the criterion: to visit three or four cities that have never been visited by the Popes. But I am going there, to Mexico, because of the Vergin Mary. “Then – he concluded – I’ll travel to Chiapas, in the South, on the border with Guatemala, then I’m going to Morella and almost certainly, on my way back to Rome, I will probably spend a day or a little less in Ciudad Juarez. About the visit to other Latin American countries: I have been invited to go in Aparecida in 2017, another Patron Saint of the Portuguese-speaking America”.