Sunday, December 22, 2013

Interview with the Pope: Christmas is the encounter with Jesus“Christmas for me is hope and tenderness . . .” 

The latest interview with Pope Francis, given to the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” begins with a reflection on the meaning of Christmas. 

In an hour and a half long conversation with Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli, the Pope addressed the themes of the suffering of children and the tragedy of world hunger; the relationship between the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies; and questions about marriage and the family, the focus of next year’s Extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops.

As the first Christmas of his pontificate approaches, the Pope explained how to live the season with his usual simplicity: “It is the encounter with Jesus.” Christmas is an encounter between God and His people. And it is also a consolation, “a mystery of consolation.” Christmas, the Pope said, “speaks to us about tenderness and hope.” 

It is an invitation to all Christians to not become “a cold Church, that doesn’t know where it’s going, that is tied up in ideologies, in worldly attitudes.” 

Pope Francis responds to the critics and the stereotypes of those who would trivialize the celebration of Christmas with a few persuasive words: “When one doesn’t have the capacity, or is there is a human situation that doesn’t permit you to understand this joy, you live the feast with a worldly cheer. But between the profound joy and mundane cheerfulness there is a difference.”

From his reflections on Christmas, the Pope moved on to a reflection on the 50th anniversary of the historic visit of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land. Pope Francis expressed his desire to go there himself to meet with “my brother Bartholomew, the patriarch of Constantinople.”

Pope Francis then dealt with the question of the innocent suffering of children, who do not understand the reason of their suffering, and who can only entrust themselves to God, “to entrust themselves to His gaze.” 

And the suffering of children is seen too in situations of hunger. 

The Pope invites us to shake off indifference and to avoid waste. The social doctrine of the Church is the Pope’s compass, as he himself explained, referring to Evangelii gaudium, and to some criticisms that have come from some circles. To his mind, there are the poor and [there is] the economy that never seems to better their condition even in periods of prosperity. When asked if he ever feels offended by being called a Marxist, the Pope answered no: “It is a mistaken ideology, but I have known so many Marxists who as persons are good, and for this reason I am not offended.”

The unity of Christians is another priority. Today, Pope Francis says, there exists an “ecumenism of blood.” He explains that in many countries, Christians are killed without distinction, but unity is a grace that is still yet to come.

On the question of the Sacraments for the divorced and re-married, the Pope said he doesn’t take a position, but referred to the Consistory in February and the extraordinary Synod in October 2014. He emphasized the necessity of prudence, “not as a paralyzing attitude, but as a virtue of those who govern.”

Responding to a question about the proper relationship between the Church and politics, Pope Francis spoke about a relationship that moves in different environments and with different tasks, but which must converge in helping the people. “Politics is noble,” he said, citing Paul VI. “It is one of the highest forms of charity. We dirty it when we use it for business.”

Finally, Pope Francis spoke about the image of women in the Church, who must be esteemed and not “clericalized.”

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