Pope Francis said that he believes that it is also important for priests to have an understanding of psychology for their pastoral ministry.
Since the interview with the pope took place in 2019, restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted access to mental health services around the world, according to the World Health Organization, at a time when anxiety and depression are rising.
“I'm convinced that every priest must know human psychology,” Pope Francis said. “There are those who know it from the experience of the years, but the study of psychology is necessary for a priest.”
The pope recalled that reading the book “Be Glad You’re Neurotic” by the American psychiatrist Louis E. Bisch was very interesting and “made me laugh out loud.”
It was not the first time that the pope had revealed his prior experience with seeing a psychiatrist at the age of 42. Pope Francis also discussed it in an interview in 2017 with French sociologist Dominique Wolton.
In the La Nacion interview, Pope Francis also talked about the origin of his lung condition, which was brought on by a flu epidemic when he was a 21-year-old seminarian.
“It was 1957. I was in my second year of seminary ... That winter there had been a strong flu epidemic that affected many of the seminarians. Among them was me. But the truth is that my case evolved in a more torpid way. … Upon viewing the X-rays, the specialist found three cysts in the upper lobe of the right lung. There was also a bilateral pleural effusion that caused me pain and shortness of breath,” he said.
After his recovery from the operation to remove part of the affected lobe, he said that he never felt any limitation in his activities.
Pope Francis said: “As the doctors have explained to me, the right lung expanded and covered the entire ipsilateral hemithorax. And the expansion has been so complete that, if he is not advised of the history, only a first-rate pulmonologist can detect the lack of the excised lobe.”
The article also quoted Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who said that the issue of Bergoglio’s lung came up during the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.
“When the figure of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires began to emerge as the new possible pope, they began to move to stop God's plan that was about to come to fruition. Someone who was supporting another “papabile” cardinal, in effect, spread the rumor in Santa Marta that Bergoglio was ill because he was missing a lung,” Maradiaga said according to La Nacion.
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“It was at this point that I took courage. I spoke to other cardinals and said, 'OK, I'm going to go ask the archbishop of Buenos Aires if these things are really true. ' When I went to see him, I apologized for the question that I was about to ask him. Cardinal Bergoglio was very surprised, but confirmed that apart from a little sciatica and a small operation on his right lung to remove a cyst when he was young, he did not have any major health problems.”
The final questions in the 2019 interview with the pope related to death. Pope Francis responded that he thinks of death, but is not afraid of it. When asked how he imagines his own death, the pope replied:
“Being a pope, whether in office or emeritus. And in Rome. I am not going back to Argentina.”