Pope Francis said that when he heard these stories, he didn’t just think of the exploiters, but also the clients. “Do they not know that with that money, to take off for sexual satisfaction, they helped the exploiters?” he asked.
His meeting with the ex-prostitutes happened in an Aug. 12 visit to women rescued from forced prostitution and under the care of the Pope John XXIII Community in Rome as part of his "Mercy Friday" initiative during the Jubilee.
The Pope recounted the meeting in an interview with TV2000 published Sunday, Nov. 20 to coincide with the end of the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy.
During the Holy Year, the Pope had made a habit of “Mercy Friday” encounters with others. When asked if there was an encounter that had a particular impact on him, Francis pointed to his meeting with the ex-prostitutes, and the stories he heard.
For the Pope, another particularly striking encounter was the day he went to visit people at both the beginning and end of life, when he traveled to a residence for the terminally ill, as well as to the neonatal unit of Rome’s San Giovanni hospital.
When he arrived at the maternity ward of the hospital, the Pope recalled seeing a mother “who cried and cried and cried in front of her two twins.” She originally had three babies, but one of them had died.
“She cried for her dead son, while caressing the other two,” the Pope said, explaining that his mind immediately turned to the attitude of some who “send away” their children before birth.
This is a “horrible crime,” he said, naming several common false justifications for abortion: “they send them away because ‘it’s better like this,’ because you are more comfortable," or because "it’s ‘a big responsibility’.” This, he stressed again, is “a serious sin.”
Despite still having her other two children, the woman “cried for the one who died, unable to be consoled,” he said.
Francis said this visit as well as that of the women rescued from forced prostitution stayed in his mind.
Pope Francis' 40-minute video interview with journalists Paolo Ruffini and Lucio Brunelli of TV2000 touched on a variety of other topics, including the fruits of the Jubilee of Mercy, papal temptations, the importance of having a good sense of humor and how he deals with stress.
He said the Year of Mercy’s celebration in every diocese of the world instead of just in Rome "universalized" it.
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“It was the entire Church who lived this Jubilee, it was like a Jubilee atmosphere,” he said, noting how he heard news from dioceses around the world telling stories of people drawing closer to the Church and strengthening their personal encounter with Jesus.
The Jubilee, he said, was “a blessing from the Lord” and “a great step forward.” He credited his predecessors Bl. Paul VI, who began the Jubilee Year tradition, and St. John Paul II, “who put a very strong accent on mercy.”
“It planted a lot of seeds,” he said, crediting the spiritual growth people during the Holy Year to God's grace.
“I think that the Lord will grow good things, simple, daily, in the lives of people,” rather than through spectacles, he said.
When asked about a comment he had made saying “the human attitude closest to divine grace is humor,” Francis said having a good sense of humor is a grace that he asks for every day.
He said he prays the same prayer of St. Thomas More: “Give me, Lord, a sense of humor,” so that he “knows how to laugh ahead of a fight.” A good sense of humor “lifts you,” he said, and allows you to see things with a renewed perspective.