The right to conscientious objection must be legally recognized as a human right, he said. The same must also go for a government official, "who is a human person. The state must also take criticism into account. That would be a genuine form of laïcité."
Pope Francis said that Catholic arguments shouldn't be swept aside with the excuse that they "speak like a priest. No."
Catholics, he said, "base themselves on the kind of Christian thinking that France has so remarkably developed," and ought to have a voice.
Published May 16, the Pope's interview touched on a variety of other issues, such as clericalism, possible reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), migration and fears surrounding Islam and terrorism.
He said that despite his appeals to welcome incoming migrants, the question as to whether Europe can handle the increasing influx is "a fair and responsible question because one cannot open the gates wide unreasonably."
In order to properly deal with the problem, one must go to the root causes, he said, noting that migration is mainly caused due to wars in the Middle East and Africa, as well as a lack of development on the African continent.
The worst welcome migrants fleeing these situations can receive is for their host countries "to 'ghettoize' them," he said, stressing the need for proper integration.
He noted how the terrorists who carried out the Brussels attacks were themselves Belgians and the children of migrants, "but they grew up in a ghetto…This illustrates the need for Europe to rediscover its capacity to integrate."
This need for integration is all the more important today, he said, "since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate. A demographic emptiness is developing."
When asked if Europe's fear of Islam – which in turn has caused hesitancy to accept migrants – is justified, Francis said in his opinion, there is not a fear of Islam in itself so much as a fear of ISIS and "its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam."
He acknowledged that the idea of conquest "is inherent in the soul of Islam," but said that Jesus' commission to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew to "go out to all nations" could also be interpreted "in terms of the same idea of conquest."
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In the face of Islamic terrorism, "it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq, where a strong government previously existed. Or in Libya, where a tribal structure exists," he said.
Francis said that ultimately "co-existence between Christians and Muslims is still possible," and pointed to countries such as Argentina, "where they co-habit on good terms," Lebanon and a pre-wartime Central Africa as examples.
On the topic of reconciliation with the SSPX, Pope Francis said that Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the traditionalist group, is "a man with whom one can dialogue."
This is not the case with others "who are a little strange, such as Bishop Williamson or others who have been radicalized," he said, expressing his belief that professed members "are Catholics on the way to full communion."
A "good dialogue" is currently taking place with the SSPX, he said, explaining that the proposal of a personal prelature would be possible solution for their full reconciliation with the Church, but stressed that before this is done, "it will be necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them."
"The Second Vatican Council has its value. We will advance slowly and patiently," he said.