Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight press conference from Japan

pope on Japan flight Pope Francis speaks aboard a Nov. 26 flight from Tokyo to Rome. | Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

Please read below for CNA's full transcript of the pope's Nov. 26 in-flight press conference, during his flight from Tokyo, Japan to Rome:

Pope Francis: It was an intense journey and also with a categorical change [in the middle]  because Thailand is one thing and Japan is another thing, and one cannot evaluate things with the same category. Those realities must be evaluated in the context of their own identity, and they are two totally different realities. That requires double work, and thanks to you for this. And also these were very intense days. And I think the work was strong. Thank you. I felt close to you in this work.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office: Good. Then building on that, listening to the questions, it will also be an opportunity to talk more deeply these days.

Fr. Makato Yamamoto (Catholic Shimbun, Japan): Good evening Holy Father, we thank you very much for having come to Japan from so far away. I am a diocesan priest of [inaudible[ right near Nagasaki. I would especially ask you to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima: Holy Father, how did you feel in Nagasaki and Hiroshima? And I would like to ask one thing: do society and the Western Church have something to learn from society and the Eastern Church?

Pope Francis: I'll start from the last question. There is one thing that has enlightened me so much, a saying: lux ex oriente, ex occident luxus. 'Light comes from the east and luxuriousness - consumerism - comes from the west.'  [ed. note: this phrase has been attributed to Polish poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec]

There is precisely an Eastern wisdom that is not only wisdom of knowledge, but wisdom of times, of contemplation, which for Western society quickly always helps so much: to learn a little contemplation, to stop, to look poetically at what's things are. Outside of the limits. Then, this poetry, this gratuity, searches also the perfection of fasting, penitence. I believe that the Western society should think more about this wisdom. This frenetic culture should stop a little. I don't know if this serves to illuminate the difference, but it is what we would need.

As to the first [question]: Nagasaki and Hiroshima both suffered the atomic bomb and this makes them similar. There was a difference. In Nagasaki, it wasn't only the atomic bomb but also the Christians. Nagasaki has ancient roots, an ancient Christianity,the persecution of Christians was throughout  Japan, but in Nagasaki it was very strong.

This is a Christian phenomenon that relativizes, in the sense of the word, the atomic bomb because they are two things: if one goes only to Nagasaki he says "be Christian, the atomic bomb" and stops there.

But to go to Hiroshima, this was above all about the atomic bomb. Because it is not a Christian city like Nagasaki. This is why I wanted to go to both. In both there is the atomic disaster.

Hiroshima was a true human catechesis on cruelty-- cruelty! And I couldn't see the Hiroshima museum, there was no time, because that was a long day, but they say it's terrible, terrible, and there are letters from the heads of state, the generals, explaining how one could do even greater disaster.

For me it was a much more moving experience even than Nagasaki's. Nagasaki, that of martyrdom: I saw the museum of martyrdom, but that of Hiroshima was very touching.

There I reiterated that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral. This must go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And not only the use but the possession because in the West the possession or madness of any ruler ... The madness of one who can destroy humanity. Think of that saying of Einstein: the fourth world war will be made with sticks and stones. Have I answered your question?

Shinichi Kawarada (The Asahi Shimbun, Japan): You have said that lasting peace cannot be achieved without disarmament. Japan enjoys US military protection and is also a nuclear energy producer, which carries a serious risk to the environment and humanity, as was tragically shown by the Fukushima accident. How can Japan contribute to the realization of world peace? Should nuclear power plants be turned off?

Pope Francis: I return to the possession of nuclear industries, right? An accident can always happen and you have experienced it, even the 'triple disaster' that has destroyed so much. Nuclear power is limited. The weapons, leave them [aside] because it's destruction. But the use [of nuclear energy], is very limited because we have not yet been able to reach total safety.

You can tell me: 'Yes, even with electricity you can make a disaster for an insecurity. But it's a small disaster.' A nuclear power plant nuclear disaster will be a major disaster. And yet the security has not been worked out. I, and this is my personal opinion, I would not use nuclear energy until there is a total security of use.

I offer an idea: some say that [nuclear power] is beyond the custody of creation and will destroy it, that nuclear energy must stop. It is under discussion. I stop at safety: there is no security to guarantee [there will be no disaster]. Yes, one [disaster] in the world in ten years. But even then[it has effects] on creation, the disaster of the nuclear power on creation and on the person ... There was also the disaster in Ukraine, so many years..... I distinguish this from war, from weapons. But even here I say: we must do research on safety, both regarding avoiding a disaster and on the environment[al consequences] And I think we have gone beyond the limit. Beyond the limit. In agriculture, with pesticides, and doctors tell mothers not to feed their babies chickens treated with hormones….So many rare diseases are out there today due to our bad use of the environment, rare diseases. Caring for the environment is something that [we must do] today or never.

Returning to nuclear energy: safety and environmental protection. 

More in Vatican

Elisabetta Zunica (47 News, Japan): Good morning Holy Father. Hakawada Awano is a Japanese man already sentenced to death and now awaiting the review of his trial. He was present at the mass at the Tokyo dome but he had no way to speak with you. Could you confirm if a brief meeting with you was planned or not because the subject of the death penalty in Japan is much discussed.

Just over a month before the modification of the Catechism the execution of 13 prisoners was carried out [in Japan] and on this issue there was no reference in your speeches in this visit: Did you not want to raise this, and did you have the opportunity to speak with the prime minister?

Pope Francis: I didn't know about that person's death penalty case.

But on the prime minister: I have spoken in general of many problems of condemnations, of eternal processes that never end, both with death and without death. But I talked about the general problem, which also exists in other countries: prisons are overcrowded and people waiting in a jail without the presumption of innocence, wait, wait ... fifteen days ago I made an intervention at the convention of international law and I talked seriously about the subject of the prisons of precaution and then the death penalty, which was clearly said that it is not moral that cannot be done.

I believe that this must be combined with a conscience that develops, for example, some countries cannot abolish the death penalty because of political problems, but to suspend it is a way of declaring without declaring a life sentence. But the problem of sentencing must always be for re-insertion (reintegration), sentencing without windows of horizon is not human. Even a life prisoner must think how he can reinsert himself, inside or outside, but always the horizon: the re-insertion.

You will say: but there are crazy convicts who have a problem with the genetic disease of incorrigible madness but we look for ways to at least build places that make such persons feel like people. In many parts of the world, prisons are overcrowded today, a storehouse of human flesh that instead of facilitating healthiness is often corrupted.

We must fight against the death penalty slowly. Slowly. There are cases that give me joy: states, countries, that say 'we stop.' I spoke with a state governor last year and he made almost a final suspension [of the death penalty] before leaving office, but these are steps of human consciousness. Other countries have not yet managed to incorporate that into the line of humanity.

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Jean-Marie Guenois (Le Figaro, France): You said that true peace can only be a disarmed peace, but what happens for self-defense, when one country is attacked by another? In this case, does the possibility of a just war still exist? And a small question: there has been talk of an encyclical on non-violence, is this encyclical still planned?

Pope Francis: Yes, the project is there but [maybe] the next pope will do it, because ... As soon as I have time ... There are projects that are in the drawer, the [encyclical] on peace for example. It is maturing there, but I feel, when the time comes I will do it. But I speak a lot [about this]. For example, the problem of bullying with school children: it's a problem of violence!

I talked to the young Japanese about this topic. It is a problem that we are trying to help solve with many educational programs. It is a problem of willingness and the problems of violence must be taken up. But an encyclical on violence I do not yet feel is mature; really, I have to pray much more, and seek the way.

On peace and arms there is that Roman saying: 'if you desire peace, prepare for war,' and we were not mature there. International organizations fail, the United Nations fails. They do so many things, so many worthy reflections. Countries like Norway, for example, always willing to reflect, to look for a way out, to avoid wars. This is being done and I like it, but it is but a little.

Still more needs to be done. You think, without offense, of the [UN] Security Council: there is a problem with weapons, everyone agrees to solve that problem to avoid an accidental war, everyone votes yes, then one with the right to veto says no and everything stops . I have heard - I don't know how to judge - that perhaps the United Nations should take a step forward by giving up the right to veto for some nations in the security council. I'm not a technician in this but I felt like it is a possibility. I don't know what to say, but it would be nice if everyone had the same rights.

Though in the global equilibrium there are arguments that at this moment I am not able to judge, but all that is done to stop the production of weapons and stop wars and to choose negotiations, even with the help of facilitators and helpers, this must always be done - always. And take the results. Some say they are few, but let's start with a little and then we go further. The result of negotiation is to solve problems. For example, the case of Ukraine and Russia, there is no mention of weapons but there was a negotiation for the exchange of prisoners. This is positive: always a step for peace.

There has now been an exchange to think about the planning of a government regime in the Donbass and they are discussing it. A beautiful and ugly thing happened a short time ago. The bad thing, I must say, is the hypocrisy of the arms trade: Christian countries, or at least of Christian culture, European countries that speak of peace and live on weapons. This is called hypocrisy. It is an evangelical word, Jesus said it, somewhere in chapter 23 of Matthew. To end with that hypocrisy and that a nation may have the courage to say: "I cannot speak of peace because my economy earns so much with the manufacture of arms."

But these are all things that [we do] without insulting and dirtying that country, but speaking like brothers. Human brotherhood! Let's stop, guys, let's stop because the thing is bad! In a port, now I don't remember well, a ship full of weapons arrived that had to pass the weapons in a bigger ship that had to go to Yemen -we know what happens in Yemen. Port workers said no. They were good! And the ship has returned to her home. It's one case, but it teaches us how to go about it. And peace today is very weak, very weak! But do not be discouraged, do we help this weakness with weapons?

Guenois: And legitimate self-defence with weapons?

Pope Francis: The hypothesis of self-defense always remains. It is a hypothesis that even in moral theology must be contemplated, but as a last resort, last resort with weapons! The legitimate defense with diplomacy, with mediation ... Last resort: legitimate defense, but I stress last resort. We are making an ethical progress and I like to question all these things. It means that humanity goes ahead also for good, not just for evil.

Cristiana Caricato (TV2000, Italy): Holy Father, people read in the newspapers that the Holy See has acquired an apartment for hundreds of thousands of euros in the heart of London, and they become a bit disconcerted, because of this use of Vatican finances. Also, in particular, because it involves Peter's Pence. Did you know of these financial things? And above all, in your opinion, is it correct to use  Peter's Pence in that way? You have often said that money should not be made with money. You have often denounced the unscrupulous use of finances. However, we see that this operation involves the Holy See. This scandalizes in some way. How do you see this whole event?

Pope Francis: Thank you. First of all, in good administration it is normal for a sum to come from the Peter's Pence, and what do I do? Put in a drawer? No, this is bad administration. But I look to make an investment, and when there is the need, to give... when there is the necessity, in one year, you take it. Your capital you do not devalue, if it maintains or if it grows a little. This is good administration.

If [it is] an administration of the drawer, it is bad. But you should try to make a good administration, a good investment. Is that clear?

Also an investment, as we say, an investment by widows? What do widows do? [Ed.note: An Italian saying] Two or three here, five here, if one falls, one of the others so that they are not ruined is always on security, this is always moral.

If from Peter's Pence you invest in a weapons factory, the pence is not a pence there, eh?

If you make an investment and for years, without touching it, the capital does not go, Peter's Pence should be spent in one year, one year and a half, until the other collection arrives which is made world-wide. And this is good management.

On security, and also, yes, you can buy a property, rent it, and then sell it. But, on security, with all of the securities, for the good of the people of the Pence. This, one. Then, what passed passed: A scandal. They have done things that do not seem 'clean.'

But, the report did not come from the outside. That reform of the economic methodology, that Benedict XVI had already started, is going forward. And it was the auditor of the internal accounts to say: 'Here there is a bad thing. Here there is something that is not working.' And he came to me. And I said, but are you sure? 'Yes.' And he let me see the numbers. 'What should I do?' [he asked]. [I said:] There is the Vatican justice. Go and give the report to the Promoter of Justice. And in this I remained content, because you see that the Vatican administration now has the resources to clarify the bad things which happen inside, like in this case, that -- if it is not the case of the apartment in London, because this is not yet clear -- but in that [other instance] there were cases of corruption.

And the Promoter of Justice studied the accusations, consulted, and saw an imbalance in the budget. And then, he asked me for permission to make the searches. I said: 'Is it clear, your report?' He told me, 'yes, there is a presumption of corruption in these cases. I should carry out searches in this office, this office, and this office.' And I signed the authorization.

The searches were done in five offices. And up to today, but we have the presumption of innocence, but there is capital that is not administered well, also with corruption.

I believe that in less than two months they will begin questioning the five people that are blocked [suspended from the Vatican], because there were indications of corruption. You will ask me: 'And these five are corrupt?' No, the presumption of innocence is a guarantee, a human right. But, there is corruption, and you will see. With the searches you will see if they are guilty or not.

It's a bad thing, it's not good what is happening in the Vatican. But it is clear that the internal mechanisms are beginning to work, those that Benedict XVI had already started to make. And I thank God. I do not thank God that there is corruption, but I thank God that the Vatican monitoring system is working well.

Bruni: The next question is from Phil Pullella of Reuters.

Pope Francis: [small talk]

Philip Pullella (Reuters): [small talk] If you permit me, I would like to follow a little on the question Cristiana asked, if you permit me, with a few more details.

There is a lot of worry in the last few weeks about what happened and about the finances of the Vatican. And according to some people, there is an internal war over who should control the money, according to some people. The major part of the members of the council of the administration of AIF are dismissed. The Egmont Group, a group of these financial authorities have suspended of the Vatican, the secure communication [...] The director of AIF is still suspended, as you said, and still there is no general revisore.   

What can you do or say to guarantee to the international financial community, and to the faithful in general, who are called to contribute to Peter's Pence, that the Vatican will not return to be considered a pariah a thing [inaudible] that is, to have trust you will continue and not return to the habits of the past?

Pope Francis: Thank you for the question. The Vatican has made steps forward in its administration, for example, the IOR today has the acceptance of all the banks and can act like the Italian banks, normal. Something which was not there a year ago. There is progress.

Then, the Egmont Group, that is not an official international group, a group to which the AIF belongs. And the international control does not depend on the Egmont Group, a private group that has its weight. It is a private group. And MONEYVAL will carry out the inspection it has scheduled for the first months of the next year and it will do it, it will do it.

The director of the AIF is in suspension because there were suspicions of bad administration. The president of AIF was strong with the Egmont Group to take back the documentation. And this the justice cannot do.

In front of this, I consulted with an Italian judge of a high level. 'What should I do?' Justice in front of an accusation of corruption is sovereign in a country. It's sovereign. And no one can involve themselves there inside. No one can say to the Egmont Group, "your papers are here." No, the papers should be studied, that they add up (FARE) to what seems a bad administration, in the sense of a bad control.
It was AIF that did not control, it seems, the crimes of others. And therefore [it failed] in its duty of controls. I hope that they prove it is not so. Because there is, still, the presumption of innocence.

And for the moment, the magistrates, the magistrate is sovereign. He should study how it went. Because on the contrary,, a country should have a superior administration that would harm the sovereignty of the country.

And the [term of the] president of AIF was expiring [November] 19th. I would call him a few days before and he was not in agreement that I was re-calling him [as president of AIF] and announced that the 19th he was leaving. I found a successor, a judge of the highest juridical and economic level, national and international, and at my return, he takes charge of AIF and things will continue like so.

It would have been a contradiction that the monitoring authority to be sovereign over the state. It is something which is not easy to understand, but what is a little disturbed is the Egmont Group, which is a private group. It helps a lot, but it is not the monitoring authority of MONEYVAL. MONEYVAL will study the numbers. It will study the procedures. It will study how [...] the Promoter of Justice. And how the judges have determined the things.

I know that in these days the interrogation of the five who were suspended will begin or has already begun. It is not easy, but we should not be naive. We should not be slaves. 

Someone told me -- but I do not believe it -- but they said, 'yes, with this, we have touched the Egmont Group. You scare the people . We are creating a little terrorism…' Let's leave that aside. We go forward with the law, with MONEYVAL, with the new president of AIF, and the director was suspended but maybe he is innocent. I would like that, because it is a beautiful thing [if] one is innocent and not guilty. I felt a little bit of noise with this group that was not wanting that the papers be touched that belong to the group.

Pullella: And a guarantee for the faithful that…?

Pope Francis: To guarantee this? Look, it's the first time that in the Vatican the pot is discovered from the inside, not from the outside, From the outside many times. And they said look there and we had so much embarrassment... But in this Pope Benedict was wise. And he began a process that matured and now the institutions that the auditor had the courage to make a written report against five people… The auditor is working. Really, I do not want to offend the Egmont Group, because they did so much good, help, but in this case the state has sovereignty. And even justice is more sovereign then the executive power, more sovereign. It is not easy to understand but I ask you all to understand this difficulty.

Roland Juchem (CIC, Germany): Holy Father, on the flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, you sent a telegram to Carrie Lam of Hong Kong. What do you think about the situation there, about the manifestations and after the district council elections? And when can we accompany you to Beijing?

The telegrams are sent to every head of state. It is an automatic procedure, it is a matter of greeting and also a kind way to ask permission to fly over their territory. They do not mean either a condemnation or a backing. It is automatic. All the flights do that when they enter and give a warning. We do that with kindness, we greet. This has no meaning, according to the sense of your question. It only means courtesy.

On the other situation you are talking about, I will think about that. It is not only about Hong Kong. Think about Chile, think about France, the democratic France in the year of the yellow vests, think about other Latin American countries, like Brazil, that have similar problems, (think) also about some European country. It is a general issue. And what does the Holy See do? It calls for dialogue, for peace. It is not just Hong Kong. There are many countries with problems, and in this moment I am not able to assess them. I respect the peace and I call for peace in all of these countries with problems. There are also problems with Spain, problems like these… it is convenient to relativize the issues and call for the dialogue and the peace to solve the problems.

Juchem: Beijing...

Pope Francis: I would like to go to Beijing, I love China

Valentina Alazraki (Televisa, Spain): Pope Francis, Latin America is under fire. After Venezuela, we have seen in Chile images that we did not think we were going to see again after Pinochet. We have seen the situation in Bolivia, Nicaragua, other countries. Riots, violence in the streets, dead and injured, Churches looted. What is your assessment on what it is happening in these countries? Can the Church, and you personally as a Latin American pope, do something? Are you doing something?

Pope Francis: Somebody told me: 'The situation in Latin America nowadays looks like the situation in 1974 - 1980,' Chile, Argentina, Urguay, Brazil, I think also Bolivia, they had the Operation Condor - this is how it was called - the situation was so in fire. I do not know if one situation looks like the other, I am not able now to make a general evaluation of this. It is true, there are declarations that are not precisely peace declarations. The Chilean issue, since Chile comes out of an abuse crisis that made us suffer a lot, and now comes back with this kind of issue that we do not understand well.

But Chile is under fire, as you say. We must look for the dialogue and also for the analysis. I have not yet found a well done analysis on the situation in Latin American. And also there are weak, very weak governments, that were not able to bring order and peace: this is also a reason why there is this situation.

Alazraki: Evo Morales asked for your mediation, for example. Concrete things...

Pope Francis: Yes, the concrete things. Venezuela asked for the mediation and the Holy See has always been available, there is a good relation. We are there to help when it is needed. Bolivia asked for something similar, I still do not know how, but also forward a request to the United Nations that sent delegates and also some countries of the United Nations. I do not know about Chile. Brazil certainly did not, but there are problems also there. It is a strange thing, I would not want to say more, because I sincerely have not studied the issue in depth.

I take advantage of your question. You did not speak a lot about Thailand and Thailand is different from Japan, it is another culture-- of transcendence and of beauty, different for the beauty of Japan. So much poverty and so many spiritual richness. But there is also a problem that is heart-breaking and that make us think to Grecia and the others. She is a mater on this issue of the exploitation. She studied well and her book did a lot of good. Some places of Thailand are difficult for this reason.

There is also north Thailand, where I could not go. The tribal Thailand, as there is the tribal northeastern India, with a totally different culture. I received some twenty people from that area, they are the first baptized people who came to Rome.
Bangkok, we saw that, is a very modern city. It is a strong, big city, with problems and wealth other than Japan.

I wanted to underscore the issue of exploitation. And I thank you and your  book. And I would like to thank the green book by Franca. Where is Giansoldati? She is there. Two women, who are in the flight, wrote a book each on the issues of today. The ecological issue, the issue of the destruction of the mother earth, of the environment. And the issue of the human exploitation. We can see that women work more than men and are skilled. Thanks. I thank you both for this contribution. And still I have in my heart the shirt of Rocio. I will not forget.

I thank you all. Thanks for your straightforward questions, thanks. This is good, it is always good. Pray for me. Have a good meal!

This unofficial transcript and translation is a collabortion of journalists at CNA, and its Italian and Spanish language news partners. Every effort is made for accuracy and clarity.

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