Here's why Pope Francis goes off script

Here's why Pope Francis goes off script

Pope Francis laughs during his Jan. 16 homily at Manila's Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.
Pope Francis laughs during his Jan. 16 homily at Manila's Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

.- In a press briefing with journalists in the Philippines, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi ventured to explain the reason why Pope Francis so frequently deviates from his prepared speeches.

“Every time that we are in a particularly intense situation, the Pope desires to speak from the heart,” the spokesman told journalists during the Jan. 17 briefing.

“Sometimes maybe he is tired or he feels (he is) not able to find the right word and then he reads the speech, but if he feels that the emotion and the strength is there to express his heart more spontaneously, then he does this.”

The press briefing took place after Pope Francis’ half-day trip to the Philippine island of Leyte, which was scheduled to last all day but was cut short due to adverse weather caused by an inbound typhoon.

Fr. Lombardi said that so far this papal trip has been “a paradigmatic situation” because the pontiff made a great effort beforehand to prepare with English texts so that people would understand him, yet has still gone off script.

“Sometimes he feels that he can express still better what he has in the heart through spontaneous expression in Spanish, sometimes in Italian,” the spokesman explained, noting that today’s morning Mass in Tacloban was “wonderful” because there was a translator available.

“I think this mix is really very good…this morning it was not possible to have a longer time, (but) then the Pope did a synthesis from his heart and that was sufficient for the people present,” he said.

One journalist also brought into question what makes so many people begin to cry when they see the Pope, saying that he saw many burst into tears that didn’t seem like the “usual tears of joy.”

Fr. Lombardi responded by saying that there are times when “we are very profoundly moved, until the roots of our hearts, of our being, and it happens that we are a little confused and it's not easy to explain what we are experiencing.”

When we feel something moving us that deeply it’s normal to express it in tears, he said, noting that in our faith, we are called to announce consolation to those who are experiencing intense suffering or conversion.

“In this sense the Christian faith has to announce that ‘Christ is with you,’ and this is the message that the Pope has given: even if you are profoundly moved and suffering, you are not alone.”

Manila archbishop Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle was also present at the press briefing, and also responded to the question by explaining that in the Christian tradition there is something called “the gift of tears.”

“It’s a gift because it comes when there is a profound experience, especially a deep human experience that also reveals to you something of the divine – and it is so profound and you know you are before it and your body responds to it in a very physical way, and one of those ways is tears,” he said.

Although some who cry in front of the Pope don’t seem to be crying out of happiness, the cardinal assured that if they were to be asked, they would say that they are, in fact, crying tears of joy.

They are, he said, “tears of joy and at the same time tears of consolation or just being considered important, or just tears of realizing I matter, I was approached, I was seen, etc. You could see that.”

Once Pope Francis returned to Manila after his visit to Tacloban ended earlier than expected, he spent the day resting, rather than making any other visits.

Cardinal Tagle and Fr. Lombardi also spoke about the Pope’s energy on the trip, noting that although standing for long periods of time and meeting so many people do wear him out, he recovers quickly.

“Our experience is that he has an incredible energy and a good capacity to recuperate his energy with 2 hours of rest,” Fr. Lombardi observed, noting that once in a while the Pope cancels something in Rome when he feels too tired to “do a good service to the Church.”

However, after canceling, the pontiff rests for a while and then starts again, the spokesman explained.

Pope Francis “can be well again so soon – we are always surprised that a man of his age can do what he is doing, at home and abroad,” he said, noting how the Pope himself refers to this unusual energy as “the grace of office,” in which God gives whatever is needed for the mission he assigns.

Tags: Pope Francis, Pope in Philippines