Pope's words in interview may not have been his own, Scalfari says

Pope Francis in St Peters Square on Pentecost Sunday May 19 2013 Credit Stephen Driscoll CNA 13 CNA 5 23 13 Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2013. | Stephen Driscoll/CNA.

Editor Eugenio Scalfari has conceded it is "really possible" that some of the Pope's words he reported in the interview published in La Repubblica Oct. 1 "were not shared by the Pope himself."

Last month's interview led to several criticisms of Pope Francis, notably Scalfari quoting the Pope saying of conscience that "everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place."

According to Scalfari's reporting of Pope Francis' words, he also described the Roman Curia as a "leprosy."

After the interview was published, Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi maintained that the text was overall faithful to the Pope's thought, even though it could not be considered part of his Magisterium.

The interview was then published in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Oct. 2, and was inserted among the Pope's speeches on the Vatican's website, translated in six languages.

In the weeks after its publication, however, the interview drew widespread criticism as well as doubts over the accuracy of the Pope's words.

The text was recently removed from the Vatican's website because "the information in the interview is reliable on a general level, but not on the level of each individual point analyzed," Fr. Lombardi told journalists Nov. 15.

In a meeting with the journalists of the Foreign Press Association of Rome, Scalfari maintained that all his interviews have been conducted without a recording device, nor taking notes while the person is speaking.

"I try to understand the person I am interviewing, and after that I write his answers with my own words," Scalfari explained.

He conceded that it is therefore possible that "some of the Pope's words I reported, were not shared by Pope Francis."

Scalfari recounted that after La Repubblica published two of his op-eds full of questions for Pope Francis, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State, wrote him saying that Pope Francis had read his articles, and would, when time permitted, answer with a written text.

Scalfari responded to Archbishop Becciu, thanking for the attention and adding that he would prefer a face-to-face meeting with the Pope.

After a few weeks, Scalfari received a nine-page letter from Pope Francis, accompanied by an introduction written by Archbishop Becciu.

Scalfari phoned Pope Francis' residence at the Vatican, and told Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, the Pope's particular secretary, that he would publish the letter he had received, and did so Sept. 11.

The letter was published on La Repubblica Sep. 11 and Pope Francis then called Scalfari Sept. 20, and arranged a meeting for them, to be held Sept. 24, in the afternoon.

Scalfari said that at the end of the 80 minute conversation, he asked Pope Francis permission to report the conversation. The Pope agreed, and Scalfari offered to send him the text before its publication.

According to Scalfari, the Pope told him not to "waste time" in sending him the text, saying, "I trust you."

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Scalfari said he nevertheless sent his text of the conversation to the Vatican on Sept. 29, together with an accompanying letter.

In the letter, he reportedly wrote: "I must explain that I wrote up our conversation in order to let everybody understand our dialogue. Keep in mind that I did not report some things you told me, and that I report some things you did not tell me, which I wanted to insert to let the reader understand who you are."

According to Scalfari, Monsignor Xuereb called him two days later, saying that Pope Francis had permitted its publication, and the text was subsequently published.

According to a Vatican source who spoke with CNA Nov. 19, the interview "had to be removed from the Vatican website since it did not report faithfully the Pope's words."

The source especially wanted to point out that "Pope Francis never referred to the Curia as a leprosy; he was making a more general assessment of the medieval courts. Pope Francis was very sorry that people in the curia felt uncomfortable with his words."

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