Greg Burke: Holy Father, the questions about the trip are finished...
Pope Francis: I would like to tell you some things on some points of the trip that I have experienced with a special strength. The fact of your history, the history of the Baltic countries. It is a story of invasion, of dictatorships, of crimes, of deportations. When I visited the Museum in Vilnius -- “museum” is a word that makes you think of the Louvre, that museum was a prison, it was the prison where political or religious detainees were taken. I saw the cells, the size of this seat, where they could only stay standing, cells of torture. I saw places of torture where with the cold that they have in Lithuania they took naked prisoners and hit them with water and left them there for hours, for hours... to break their endurance. And then I was in the hall, a great room of the executions and they took the prisoners there by force and [killed them] simply with a blow to the nape of the neck, then they brought out [the bodies] with a mechanical stair toward a truck that threw them in the forest, in a spot... they killed around 40 a day. At the end there were around 15 thousand of them they killed there. This makes up a part of the history of Lithuania and also of the other countries, but that which I saw was in Lithuania.
Then I went to the place of the large ghetto, where they killed thousands of Jews, then in the same afternoon I went to the monument to the Memory of the convicted, killed, tortured, deported. That day, I tell you the truth, I was destroyed. It made me think of the cruelty. But I tell you, with information that we have today, cruelty isn’t over. The same cruelty is found today in many detention centers. Today, it is found in many prisons. Even overpopulation of a prison is a form of torture, to not live with dignity. A prison today that has a system which does not give the detained the hope of leaving is already a torture. Then we saw on the television the cruelties of the ISIS terrorists, that burned alive that pilot from Jordan, slit the throats of those Coptic Christians on the beaches of Libya, and many others. Today, cruelty is not finished. In all the world it is happening. And this message I would like to give to you, as journalists. This is a scandal, a grave scandal of our culture, of our society.
Another thing that I saw in these three countries is the hate of religion, whatever it is. The hate. I saw a Jesuit bishop in Lithuania or Latvia, I do not remember well, that was deported to Siberia for ten years, then arrived to the concentration camp, by then he was old... so many men and women defending their identity were tortured, deported to Siberia, they did not return, they were killed. The faith of these three countries is great. It is a faith that is born from martyrdom and this is a thing that maybe you have seen, speaking with the people, as you journalists do to have news of the country.
Then, this experience of faith, so important, made a unique phenomenon in these countries: an ecumenical life as there is not in other countries generally. It is a true ecumenism, ecumenism between Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, even Orthodox. In the cathedral yesterday in the ecumenical service in Latvia, in Riga, we saw it. So great, brothers, very very near, only one Church, close... the ecumenism has its own roots.
Then there is another phenomenon in these countries and it is important to study it: maybe you can make many good things in your jobs studying this: the phenomenon of the transmission of the culture, of identity, and of faith. Usually, the faith was transmitted by the grandparents, why? Because the dads were working, the dads and moms had to work and they had to be radicalized in the party, in the case of the Soviets, or under the line of the Nazism and even atheist educated. But the grandparents knew to transmit the faith and the culture in a time that in Lithuania it was forbidden to use the Lithuanian language and it was removed from the schools, when they went to a religious service, either protestant or Catholic, they took there the prayer books to see if they were in the Lithuanian language or in Russian language or German. So many, a generation, in that period learned the mother tongue from their grandparents, the grandparents that taught them to write or to read the mother tongue. This makes us think: it would be beautiful some articles, some television services on the transmission of the culture, of the language, of the art, of the faith, in moments of dictatorship, of persecution. They could not think themselves as other because all the means of communication in that time were few, the radio, it was grabbed hold of by the state.
When a government becomes or wants to become dictatorial, the first thing that it does is take control of the means of communication. I want to underline this.
And now today I had the meeting with youth. Young people are scandalized, I introduce in this way the first question that was outside the theme of the trip. The young people are scandalized by the hypocrisy of adults. They are scandalized of… They are scandalized by incoherence, they are scandalized by corruption, and into this [scandal] of corruption enters that which you were under-lining: sexual abuse. It is true that it is an accusation against the Church, and we all know, we are all aware of the statistics, I will not say them. But even if it was just one priest who abused a boy or a girl, this is atrocious, because that man was chosen by God to bring… I know that young people are scandalized by such great corruption. They know that it is everywhere, but in the Church it is the most scandalous because it should bring children to God and not destroy them. Young people search to make a way for themselves with experience. The meeting of young people today was very clear: they are asking to be heard. They are asking to be heard. They do not want fixed formulas. They do not want accompaniment, where they are ordered what to do.
The second part of this question that was first after the [questions about the] trip was that the Church does not do the things as it should in this [area], in punishing this corruption.
I take the Pennsylvania report, for example, and we see that the first 70 years there were so many priests that fell into this corruption, then in more recent times it has diminished, because the Church noticed that it needed to fight it in another way. In the old times these things were covered up, they even covered them up at home, when the uncle was molesting the niece, when the dad was molesting his sons, they covered it up because it was a very big disgrace… it was the way of thinking in previous times or of the past time. It is a principle that helps me to interpret history a lot.
A historic event is interpreted with the hermeneutic of the time period in which it took place, not as a hermeneutic of today passed on. For example, the example of indigenous people, that there were so many injustices, so much brutality, but it cannot be interpreted with the hermeneutic of today [now] that we have another conscience. A last example, the death penalty. The Vatican, when it was a State, a pontifical State, had the death penalty. In the end the state decapitations were 1870 more or less, a guy, but then the moral conscience grew, it is true that always there were loopholes and there were hidden death sentences. You are old, you are an inconvenience, I do not give you the medicine, it went so… it is a condemnation to social death. And about today… I believe with this I have responded.
The Church… I take the example of Pennsylvania, watch the correlations and watch when the Church became conscious of this. It dedicated all and recently, I have received so, so many completed convictions from the Doctrine of the Faith and I have said forward, forward, never have I signed a request for grace after a conviction. On this I do not negotiate, there is no negotiation.
Another question? On the trip, it’s over. Pelayo I think wanted to say another thing?
Greg Burke: Antonio Pelayo of Vida Nueva.
Antonio Pelayo (Vida Nueva): Holy Father, three days ago agreement was signed between the Holy See and the government of the Chinese Republic. Can you give us some additional information about its contents, because some Chinese Catholics, in particular Cardinal Zen, are accusing you of having sold the Church to the government of Beijing after so many years of suffering. How do you respond to these accusations?
Pope Francis: This is a process of years, a dialogue between the Vatican commission and the Chinese commission to put the appointment of bishops in order. The Vatican team worked a lot. I would like to say some names: Monsignor Celli (Ed. note: Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli), who with patience went into dialogue. Years. Years! Then, Fr. Rota Graziosi, a humble Curia official of 72 years of age who wants to be a priest, to go in a parish, but he stayed in the Curia to help in this process. And then, the Secretary of State, who is a very devoted man, Cardinal Parolin, but he has a special devotion to the lens, he studies all of the documents down to the period, comma, notes, and this gives me a great assurance. Also, this team with these qualities went ahead. You know that when you make a peace agreement or a negotiation, both sides lose something. This is the law. Both sides. And you move ahead.
This went ahead two steps and back one, two ahead and back one. Then, months passed without speaking to each other and then the time of God, which appears to be [the time of the] Chinese. Slowly. This is wisdom, the wisdom of the Chinese. And the bishops who were in difficulty were studied case by case and in the case of the bishops, in the end dossiers came on to my desk about each one. And, I was responsible for signing the case of the bishops. Then, the case of the agreement returned, the drafts on my desk. They were spoken about. I gave my ideas. The other discussed and went ahead. I think of the resistance, the catholics who have suffered. It’s true. And, they will suffer. Always, in an agreement, there is suffering. They have a great faith. And they write. They make messages arrive that what the Holy See, what Peter says is that which Jesus says. The martyrial faith of these people today goes ahead. They are the greats!
I signed the agreement. At least, the plenipotentiary letters for signing that agreement that I had signed. I am responsible. The others that I appointed in all have worked for more than 10 years. It’s not an improvisation. It’s a path, a true path.
Then, a simple anecdote and a historical datum, two things to finish. When there was that famous communique of an ex-Apostolic Nuncio, the episcopates of the world wrote me, saying clearly that they felt close, that they were praying for me. The Chinese faithful wrote and the signature of this writ was from a bishop, let’s say it this way, of the traditional Catholic Church and from a bishop of the Patriotic Church, together and faithful, both of them. For me, it was a sign from God.
An anecdote as well: we forget that in Latin America - thanks to God that this is over - we forget that for 350 years it was the king of Portugal and of Spain to appoint the bishops and the Pope only gave jurisdiction. We forget the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Maria Teresa was tired of signing the appointments of bishops and gave jurisdiction to the Vatican Other times, and thanks to God that they aren’t repeated. But, this isn’t that they appoint. No, this is a dialogue about eventual candidates but Rome appoints, the Pope appoints. And, let us pray for the suffering of some who don’t understand and who have at their backs so many years of being clandestine.
Thank you very much. They tell us that dinner is ready and the flight isn’t any longer. Thanks so much, thanks so much for your work and pray for me.
Greg Burke: Thanks to you, Holy Father. Have a good dinner and a good rest.