Interview Excerpts on Return Flight to Rome

[From the Vatican website]

 

(Father Lombardi)

We thank the Pope very much for being here. After so exhausting a journey, he has been willing to meet us. So we're very grateful to him.

We have organized ourselves – the journalists worked this out on their own – in some of the major language groups, which will present a few people to ask questions. I have not put any limits on them, because I know that you are willing to give them free scope... unless you yourself would like to say something first by way of introduction... Let us go to the questions.

The first question is from the Italian group:

Q. Holy Father, in these days you performed gestures which made the rounds of the whole world: putting your hand on the wall in Bethlehem, making the sign of the cross, embracing the survivors today at Yad Vashem, but also kissing the Holy Sepulchre yesterday with Bartholomaios, and so forth. We wanted to ask you if you had thought beforehand about all these gestures, decided on them. Why did you choose them and what do you think will be the effect of these gestures, in addition, naturally, to the grandiose gesture of inviting Peres and Abu Mazen to the Vatican...

R. Gestures, the most authentic gestures, are not those you think about beforehand, but the ones that come naturally, no? I thought: "Something might be done", but the concrete gestures, none of these was planned as such. Some things, for example inviting the two Presidents to pray, we had thought of doing there, but there were so many logistical problems, so very many, since they also have to take account of the territory, where it would take place, and that is not easy. So we thought of a meeting... but in the end we came up with this invitation which I hope will turn out well. But [the gestures] weren't thought out beforehand and .. I don't know, I get the idea of doing something, but it's spontaneous, that's the way it is. At least, to tell the truth, an idea that "something could be done", but the concrete [gesture] did not come to me. For example, at Yad Vashem, nothing [came]; and then it did. That is what happened.



(Father Lombardi)

It is now the turn of the Portuguese language group.

Q. Holiness, I would like to ask you how should the "Jerusalem question" be resolved, so as to obtain a lasting and, as you have said, stable peace? Thank you.

A. There are many proposals about the Jerusalem question. The Catholic Church, we can say the Vatican, has its own position from a religious perspective: it will be the city of peace of the three religions. This from a religious standpoint. The concrete measures for peace must emerge from negotiations. There have to be negotiations. I would be in agreement if from negotiations, there might come forward this part: it will be capital of one state, of another... But these are conjectures. I am not saying: "It has to be this way", no. These are proposals which have to be negotiated. Really, I don't feel competent to say, "This or that should be done", because it would be madness on my part. But I believe that one has to enter into negotiations with honesty, a spirit of fraternity and mutual trust. And there everything is negotiated: all the territory, also the relations. Courage is needed to do this, and I fervently pray to the Lord that these two leaders, these two governments, will have the courage to go forward. This is the only path to peace. I only say what the Church must say and has always said: Jerusalem should be preserved as the capital of the three religions, as a point of reference, as a city of peace – I was also about to say "sacred", but that is not the right word – but [a city] of peace and [a] religious [city].


(Father Lombardi)

We now return to the English language group.

Q. Holy Father, today you met a group of Holocaust survivors. Obviously, you are well aware that a figure who remains controversial because of his role during the Holocaust is your predecessor, Pope Pius XII. Before becoming Pope, you wrote or said that you held Pius XII in high regard, but that you wanted to see the archives opened before coming to a definite conclusion. So we want to know whether you intend to go ahead with the cause of Pius XII, or will wait for further developments in the process before making a decision. Thank you.

A. Thank you. The cause of Pius XII remains open; I have looked into it. There is still no miracle, and without miracles it cannot proceed. That is where things stand. We have to wait to see how things turn out, how the cause proceeds, and then think about making decisions. But the fact remains that there is no miracle and at least one miracle is needed for beatification. This is where the cause of Pius XII stands today. And I cannot think: "Will I beatify him or not", because it is a slow process. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

Now let us go to Argentina for another question from the Spanish language group.

Q. You have become a spiritual leader, and also a political leader, and you are raising many expectations, both within the Church and in the international community. Within the Church, for example, what is going to happen with communion to the divorced and remarried, and in the international community, this mediation with which you surprised the world, for which this meeting will take place in the Vatican... My question is whether you are afraid of failure, after having raised so many expectations. Aren't you afraid of somehow failing? Thank you.

A. First of all, let me clarify something about this meeting in the Vatican. It will be a meeting to pray, not to mediate or to seek solutions, no. We will meet to pray, only. And then each one will go home. But I believe that prayer is important and that praying together without discussions of any kind is helpful. Perhaps I did not explain things well, before this, about what it will involve. It will be a prayer meeting: there will be a rabbi, there will be a Muslim and myself. I have asked the Custos of the Holy Land to organize some of the practical matters.



(the Holy Father)

I thank you all for your company, for your kindness... and please, I ask you to pray for me. I need it, so much! Thank you.