Like the rest of the world — minus a few dozen Jesuits and their medal-deserving team of secret translators — I was absolutely blown away yesterday by the 12,000-word interview given by (and subsequently approved by! The pope reviewed the Italian text before it was sent out for publication) Pope Francis. The publication coordinated by the world’s leading Jesuit publications in several languages, including America magazine for which I have the honor to serve as a columnist, was a feat that Fr. James Martin, SJ, jokingly tweeted was perhaps Pope Francis’s very first miracle. Everything about this interview is simply amazing.
I hesitate to say anything else here for at least two reasons. The first is that, because I was more or less sequestered all day yesterday in a sound-proof recording studio in Cincinnati, OH (where I return again this morning) to record the audio version of my forthcoming book The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering, I have not had the chance (or the torture) of reviewing much of the spin and already existent commentary that flooded the media waves, newspaper pages, and blogosphere. So I’m afraid that I might simply echo what has already been said over and over again. The second is that I don’t really know where to begin. Honestly, there is simply so much there and so much on which to comment that I don’t know that I can or should do that in one blog post.
For that reason, I feel as though for the time being the words of Pope Francis should simply and powerfully speak for themselves.
I will return to these themes discussed in his interview, as I’m sure many other theologians, journalists, and “talking heads” will, at some point in the future. But now is the time to offer nothing more than a few snippets for reflection. Here are just a handful of the many, many quotable lines from the interview. Words that will no doubt inspire and challenge many. Words that I read with awe and a sense that the Holy Spirit is indeed at work in the world!
- “Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff…I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”
- “Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what has happened to me in recent months. Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.”
- “My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions [as a Jesuit Provincial] led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.
- “The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God.”
- “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.”
- “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”
- “Religious men and women are prophets…They are those who have chosen a following of Jesus that imitates his life in obedience to the Father, poverty, community life and chastity.”
- “We must walk united with our differences: there is no other way to become one. This is the way of Jesus.”
- “Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church…The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”
- “I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day.”
- “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”