Pigozzi: For four days, we have seen many young people praying with such intensity. Among them there is maybe a certain number that intend to embrace the religious life, you can think that a certain number have a vocation. But maybe someone is hesitating because he thinks that it will be a difficult path not being able to marry. Is it possible to think that in the Catholic Church, following the Eastern rite, you will permit married men to become priests?
Pope Francis: In the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church they may do it. The celibate option is given before diaconate [ordination].
Pigozzi: But now, with the Catholic Church of the Latin rite, do you think that you will reconsider the decision [of priestly celibacy]?
Pope Francis: For the Latin rite, I am reminded of a phrase of St. Paul VI: "I prefer to give my life before changing the law of celibacy." This came to me and I want to say it because it is a courageous phrase. In a moment more difficult than this -- it was in the years 1968-1970. Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church. Secondly, I would say that I do not agree with permitting optional celibacy, no. There remains only some possibility for very far places. I think of the Pacific islands, when there is a pastoral necessity, the pastor should think of the faithful.
There is an interesting book by Fr. Lobinger [Ed. note: Fritz Lobinger, bishop emeritus of Aliwal, South Africa] [on this topic] -- this is an issue of discussion between theologians, it is not yet my decision -- my decision is: optional celibacy before the diaconate, no. It is my thought, personally, but I would not do it. And this remains clear. It is only my personal thought. Am I narrow-minded, maybe? I do not want to put myself before God with this decision.
Fr. Lobinger says that the Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church. But where there is not the Eucharist, do you think Caroline, in the Pacific islands, maybe there... In many places, says Lobinger, who does the Eucharist? The directors, the organizers of those communities are deacons or sisters, or directly, the laity. And Lobinger says: you can ordain an older married man, it is his thesis, but only that exercise the munus santificandi, that is, that celebrate the Mass, that administer the sacrament of reconciliation and of unction.
Priestly ordination gives three munera [functions]: regendi [governing], that that commands; docendi [teaching], that that teaches, and santificandi [sanctifying]. This comes with ordination. But the bishop gives them [the viri probati] only the license of santificandi. The book [of Lobinger] is interesting. And maybe it could help to think about the problem. I believe that the problem should be open in this sense: where there is a pastoral problem due to the lack of priests. I do not say that it should be done, because I have not reflected, I have not prayed sufficiently on this. But the theology should be studied.
For example, Fr. Lobinger is an example, is a fidei donum of South Africa. [The potential candidate for priesthood] is already a mature man. I make this example to show the places where it should be done. I was speaking with an official of the Secretary of State, a bishop, that had worked in a communist country at the beginning of the revolution. When he had seen the crisis of the Revolution arrive it was the 1950s. The bishops secretly ordained peasants, of good religious faith. The crisis passed and 30 years later the thing was resolved. And he told me the emotion that he had when during a concelebration of the Mass he saw these farmers with their farmer hands put on their shirts to concelebrate with the bishops. This has been given in the history of the Church. It is something to study, think, rethink, and pray about.
Pigozzi: But there are also married Protestant clergy that have become Catholic?
Pope Francis: You ask me a question about that which Benedict did, that it is true, I had forgotten this. Benedict XVI made the "Anglicanorum coetibus" [Ed. creating personal ordinariates for the reception of former anglicans]. Anglican priests that have become Catholic and maintain the life an Eastern priest would. I remember in a Wednesday audience that I saw many men with a collar, but many women and children with them, in the hands of the priests, and they explained it to me... it's true, thank you for reminding me of this.
Gisotti: She will now ask you a question, Lena Klimkeit of the DPA.
Lena Klimkeit, DPA: Holy Father, during the Stations of the Cross on Friday a young man spoke very strong words about abortion. I want to repeat them for a moment. [Ed. note: The reporter repeats the comment in Spanish] ‘There is a tomb that cries out to heaven and denounces the terrible cruelty of humanity. It is the tomb that opens in the womb of the mothers from which innocent life is plucked. May God grant us to truly humanize ourselves, to defend life fervently, to make the laws that kill life not feel erased forever.’ This is a very radical position, in my opinion. I wonder and would like to ask you if this position also respects the suffering of women in this situation and if it corresponds to your message of mercy.
Pope Francis: The message of mercy is for everyone. Also for the human person who is in gestation. It is for everyone. After this failure, there is mercy as well. But a difficult mercy because the problem is not in giving forgiveness. The problem is to accompany a woman who has become aware of [what it means to have had] an abortion. These are terrible tragedies. Once I heard a doctor talking about a theory that a cell of the newly conceived fetus goes to the marrow of the mother and there is also a physical memory. This is a theory, but to say, a woman when she thinks about what she did... but I tell you the truth, you have to be in the confessional and you have to give comfort there, you can't say anything. That is why I have opened up the power [for priests] to absolve abortion out of mercy, because many times, but always, they have to meet with their child. I advise many times when they call, they have this anguish: "Your child is in heaven, talk to him. Sing to him the lullaby that you have not sung... you have not been able to sing to him". And there is a way for the mother to reconcile with her child. With God there is already forgiveness, God always forgives. But mercy also, that you elaborate this. The tragedy of abortion, to understand it well, one must be in a confessional. Terrible.
Gisotti: Thanks, Holy Father. The next question is from Valentina Alazraki of Televisa. Valentina, come. Valentina is coming up. If I remember well, it’s her 150th Apostolic Trip. I believe.
Valentina Alazraki, Televisa: Pope Francis, you have said these days here in Panama that you were very close to Venezuela, that you felt very close to the Venezuelans and today you asked for a just, peaceful solution, in respect of the human rights of all. The Venezuelans want to know what this means. They await your word. They want to know if this solution passes through the recognition of Juan Guaido, who has been backed by many countries. Others are asking for elections in the short term, free elections so the people can vote. They feel that you are a Latin American Pope and they want to hear your support, your help, your counsel. Thanks.
Pope Francis: I support in this moment all of the Venezuelan people - it is a people that is suffering - including those who are one side and the other. All of the people are suffering. If I entered to say, “listen to these countries,” or “listen to these others who say this,” I would be putting myself in a role I don’t know. It would be a pastoral imprudence on my side, and it would do damage. The words. I thought about them and thought about them again. And I think with this I expressed my closeness, what I feel. I suffer for what is happening in Venezuela right now. And for this I desire that they come to an agreement. I don’t know, not even saying to come to an agreement is okay. A just and peaceful solution. What is it that scares me? The shedding of blood. And there I also ask greatness to help, to those who can help and resolve the problem.
The problem of violence terrifies me. After all the effort made in Colombia, what happened in the cadets’ school the other day was terrifying. Blood is not the solution. That why I have to be… I don’t like the word “balanced.” I have to be a shepherd, to all. And if they need help, from a mutual agreement, may they ask for it. That’s it, to help. Thanks.
Gisotti: Thank you, Holy Father. It is the turn of Junno Arocho Estevez of Catholic News Service. Junno.
Junno Arocho Estevez, CNS: Good evening, Holiness. During her lunch with a group of young pilgrims, a young American girl told us that she had been asked about the pain and indignation of so many Catholics, particularly of the United States, for the crisis of abuse. Many American Catholics pray for the Church, but many feel betrayed and downcast after recent reports of abuse and cover-up by some bishops and have lost faith in them. Holiness, what are your expectations or hopes for the meeting in February so that the church can begin to rebuild trust between the faithful and their bishops?
Pope Francis: He is clever, he starts with the WYD [trip] and he ends up here [on another issue]. My compliments. No, but thank you for the question.
The idea of this was born in the G9 [Ed. note: he means “C9”] because we saw that some bishops did not understand well or did not know what to do or did something good or wrong and we felt the responsibility to give a "catechesis," in quotation marks, on this problem to the episcopal conferences. That is why we called upon the presidents.
First, a catechesis: that we become aware of the tragedy, what is an abused boy, an abused girl. I regularly receive abused people [in audience]. I remember one... 40 years without being able to pray. It is terrible, the suffering is terrible. That first, [the bishops] become aware of this.
Second: that they know what must be done, the procedure, because sometimes the bishop does not know what to do. It is something that has grown very strong and has not arrived at all angles, so to speak. And then, let them make general programs, but they will come from all the episcopal conferences: what the bishop must do, what the archbishop who is the metropolitan must do, what the president of the episcopal conference must do. But it must be clear in that… that they are - let’s say it in terms [that are] a little juridical - that there are protocols that are clear. This is the main thing. But, before [talking of] what must be done, is that which I said before, raising awareness.
Then, there we will pray. There will be testimonies to help to become aware and then a penitential liturgy to ask forgiveness for the whole Church. But they are working well in preparation for this. I permit myself to say that I’ve perceived a bit of an inflated expectation. We need to deflate the expectations to these points that I’m saying. Because the problem of abuse will continue. It’s a human problem, but human everywhere. I read a statistic the other day, there are those statistics that say that 50 percent is reported, of this 50 percent, 20 percent is listened to… and it goes down, and it finished like this: five percent is condemned. Terrible. Terrible. It’s a human tragedy and we need to become aware. Also us, resolving the problem in the Church, but becoming aware will help to resolve it in society, in the families where shame covers everything, and the victim… in so many others… or in so many other societies. But first, we must become aware, have the protocols [in place] and move forward. This is the thing.
Gisotti: So, I’m not sure there is time for another question. Maybe another quick question would be possible… Yes. Manuela Tulli. Please, if you could be brief because they are about to serve dinner. Thank you, Manuela.
Manuela Tulli, ANSA: Good evening, Holy Father. During this WYD, you said that it’s absurd and irresponsible to consider migrants as bearers of social problems. In Italy the new immigration policies have led to the closing of the CARA facility at Castelnuovo di Porto, which you know well. That was an experiment where you could see seeds of integration, the children were attending school, and people are at risk of being evicted. You have chosen that precise facility to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass back in 2016. Therefore, I would like to ask you what your opinion about the closing of the CARA facility in Castelnuovo di Porto is.
Pope Francis: I did not understand the question. What was ultimately decided?
Tulli: to close the CARA facility of Castelnuovo di Porto, where you celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in 2016 and now there is the risk that the people involved in the experience will be sent away.
Pope Francis: I did hear rumors about what was happening in Italy, but I was immersed in the WYD preparations, so I am not well aware of the circumstances, but I can imagine what is going on, I can imagine. It is true that the issue regarding the arrival of migrants is a very complex situation, a problem that wants memory, to ask ourselves what would happen if my country was made of immigrants. We, the Argentinians, for instance, we are all migrants. The United States was all made of immigrants. It takes recalling and… Recently, one bishop, a cardinal actually, I can’t remember his name, but he has written a beautiful article about the ‘problem of our lack of memory,’ that was the article’s title.
Then, the words that I use to express myself… is to receive, to have a heart willing to receive, to welcome, to accompany, to help grow and integrate. And I also say: the ruler must use prudence because prudence is the ruler’s most proper virtue. I said that in my last flight. With these words, yes. It is a tough equation. It comes to my mind the example of Sweden, a country that back in the 1970’s has received many, many immigrants due to a situation of dictatorship in Latin American countries and managed to integrate all the people who migrated. It is what I see that the Sant’Egidio Community [in Rome] does: they integrate migrants very fast. But the Swedish have said a few years ago that they should take this process more slowly so they can finish it, and this is the prudence of the rulers. It is a problem of charity, of love, of solidarity, and I praise the nations that have been more generous to welcome migrants, but we have other countries that did not manage to do as much, nevertheless, we have the example of Italy and Greece, and Turkey on a lesser scale. Greece was extremely generous and so was Italy. When I went to Lampedusa, that was just the beginning…. But it is true that it's important to think realistically. Then there’s another important aspect, something we should all consider: one way of helping migrants is to offer help to the countries where they come from. Migrants often flee because of famine or because of wars. It's necessary to invest where there’s starvation. Europe is capable of doing it and it is a way of fostering growth. But, speaking again about the case of Africa, there is always that unconscious thought: Africa is to be exploited. This remains in our history and it causes a large damage. The migrants from the Middle East on the other hand, they have found another way out. In Lebanon, generosity is outstanding: there are over one million citizens from Syria living there. Jordan is the same thing, they are open, they do what they can, hoping to reintegrate everyone. And also, Turkey has received quite a few [migrants], right? And so did we in Italy. But it's a complex problem, that we must speak about without prejudice. Considering all these things that just came to my mind.
Gisotti: Thank you, Holy Father. So, have a good dinner and a good trip and within in a week we’ll see you again for another very important trip, so…
Pope Francis: I thank you so much for you work. I would just like to say a thing about Panama. I felt a new feeling. I know Latin America but not Panama. And this word came to me: Panama is a noble nation. I found nobility. This I wish to say, and I want to say another thing that I said when I came back from Colombia, speaking of the experience in Cartagena and the other cities, a thing that we don’t see in Europe, that is, the pride, in this case of the Panamanians. You lift up the children and they say to you, “this is my victory,” “this is my future,” “this is my pride.” This in the midst of the demographic winter we’re living in Europe. In Italy, below zero. It has to make us think. What is my pride? Tourism? The villa [home]? The dog? Or lifting up a child? Thanks! Pray for me, I need it.