Asked if the Jubilee was, in a sense, the "Jubilee of the Council 'hic et nunc' (here and now)," Pope Francis said "the Church exists as an instrument to communicate to men the design of the mercy of God."
"To make the experience of forgiveness which embraces the entire human family lived is the grace that the apostolic ministry announces," he said.
During the Council "the Church felt the responsibility of being in the world as a living sign of the Father's love." This, Francis said, is what moves "the axis of Christian conscience" from legalism, which can be "ideological," to the Person of God who "became mercy" in the incarnation.
Responding to criticisms he's received regarding certain passages of his post-synodal exhortation "Amoria Laetitia," the Pope said that some "still do not understand" the point, and want to make everything "black or white," when in life "you have to discern."
The Council "told us this," he said, pointing to the fact that it hasn't been that long since the Council was held: "historians say that a Council, in order to be absorbed well into the body of the Church, needs a century...We are in the middle."
Conversation then shifted to the topic of ecumenism, specifically the many ecumenical visits which took place between Pope Francis and various Christian and religious leaders during the Jubilee.
When asked whether these meetings could be seen as a special result of the Jubilee, the Pope stressed that they are not "the fruit of the Year of Mercy," but rather began a long time ago.
"It's not something new," he said, explaining that he is merely following the path begun by the conciliar decree, "Unitatis redintegratio," promulgated more than 50 years ago and which initiated the journey toward unity among Christians.
Since then, he said, the path toward full Christian unity has gone forward with both "small and large steps." Francis emphasized that this path is not moving as a result of his own work, but is "the path of the Council which moves forward, intensifies."
Despite having participated in a number of significant ecumenical visits during his pontificate, and especially during the Year of Mercy, Francis denied that any sense of "acceleration" in the process was due to him.
The first of these visits during the Jubilee took place in February when Pope Francis met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, the first-ever meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of Moscow.
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Just a few months later, the Pope traveled to Lesbos in April where he met with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece.The Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew have met on several other occasions this year, including during an international interreligious gathering held in Assisi Sept. 20 for the World Day of Prayer for Peace.
During his visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan at the end of September, the Pope met with Ilia II, Catholicos and Patriarch of All Georgia, as part of a special ecumenical event.
In addition to these meetings, the Pope added another first to his ecumenical list when in October he traveled to Lund, Sweden to participate in a joint-commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, meeting with Lutheran leaders and signing a joint declaration with the Lutheran World Federation.
"I have met the primates and those responsible, it's true," he said in the interview, "but my predecessors have also had their encounters. In the measure in which we go forward the path seems to go faster..."
Asked to respond to criticisms that the Bishop of Rome should focus more on the Catholic Church than on making so many ecumenical efforts, the Pope pointed to the Gospel, noting that even Jesus himself prayed to the Father that "they may all be one…that the world may believe."
"The Bishop of Rome has always been called to cherish, seek and serve this unity," he said. "We also know that the wounds of our divisions, which lacerate the body of Christ, we can't heal them ourselves. So we can't impose projects or systems to return to unity."