By Manuel Cubias
Spanish Journalist Carmen Magallon interviewed Pope Francis in an article published Wednesday in the Spanish edition of the Italian periodical Il mio Papa.
The Pope addressed such topics as the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on future generations and the marginalized, as well as migration and the mission of the Church’s ministers.
Thinking about future generations
The pandemic is changing the world and putting us in crisis, said Pope Francis. However, he insisted, “it is impossible to emerge from a crisis the same as before. Either we come out better or we come out worse. And how we emerge depends on the decisions we make during the crisis.”
The Pope said the issue regards all of humanity, and asked what kind of lifestyle we will leave to future generations. He said we need to stop thinking only of ourselves or the present, and look to the future in the perspective of a humanity which wants to remain in connection with creation. “We must take responsibility for the future, preparing the ground so others can work it. This is the mentality that we have to elaborate in the pandemic, according to the great principle that one does not emerge from a crisis the same as before. We come out worse or better, but never the same.”
How do we deal with grief?
Magallon asked the Pope how people who have lost loved ones to the pandemic can best deal with their grief. In response, he urged them to recall and appreciate all the small and large gestures which so many people have done for others. “How do you deal with that grief? Only by trying to remain near… in a moment of silence, of closeness, doing everything possible to be together.”
“There are so many saints next door,” said the Pope, referring to all the people who have dedicated their lives to serving those in need.
These people, he added, “did not want to ‘escape’ but faced problems and sought practical solutions to them. God understands that language. And He makes it His own.”
Pope Francis highlighted the fact that our commitment to life is not reduced to health, but continues in our concern for the discarded and for those who have no work. He said we are facing “a great social challenge” which reveals to us how “the throwaway culture has impregnated our way of relating.” For this reason, we cannot continue with the same economic system which he said has injustice sewn into its foundations.
“The pandemic,” the Pope affirmed, “showed us how accustomed we have become to this throwaway culture: discarding the old, discarding the poor, discarding children and unborn children.” Faced with this disregard, he invited everyone to remember that “Every life has value and deserves to be defended and respected.”
The Pope added that as a society we must courageously confront the throwaway culture, “which continually threatens us, to live by discarding what annoys us, what is surplus to our needs, what prevents us from accumulating more and more. Against this throwaway culture, we need to embody a culture of receiving, welcoming, closeness, and fraternity. Today, more than ever, we are asked to show solidarity”, to go out to meet the other, the weakest and most vulnerable, to take care of them, to feel responsible for them, because they do not have the same resources as others.”
Papal prayer during the pandemic
Magallon also asked the Pope about what was in his heart on 27 March in St. Peter’s Square, as he held the extraordinary Urbi et Orbi.
Pope Francis answered that at first he was afraid of slipping up the stairs. However, “my heart was with all the people of God who were suffering, with a humanity that had to endure this pandemic and, on the other hand, which had the courage to strive forward. I climbed the stairs praying. I prayed the time entire time, and I went away praying. That’s how I lived that March 27th.”
He added that the General Audiences without the faithful were particularly difficult for him. “It was like talking to ghosts,” he said. “I made up for many of these physical absences with telephone calls and letters. That helped me to take the pulse of how families and communities were living this.”
How to build the future? The common good as a criterion
Pope Francis went on to affirm that there is no single recipe for getting out of the crisis, but we will find the way if we change the economic paradigm. “Start with the peripheries … for the benefit of people’s dignity.”
He added, “I speak about the peripheries, but we also have to include our common home, which is the world,and care for the planet.”
It is in this vein that Pope Francis said he placed his recently published encyclical, Fratelli tutti. Human fraternity, he noted, is one of the keys to build the future. In this sense, he also spoke about distribution of a vaccine against the coronavirus. “The vaccine cannot be the property of the country where it was discovered, or of a group of countries that are allied in this goal … The vaccine is the patrimony of humanity, of all humanity. It is universal, because people’s health, as the pandemic has taught us, is a common patrimony, it belongs to the common good… and that must be the criterion.”
Asked about the issue of migration, the Pope replied firmly: “With regard to migrants, we must take charge. Migrants leave their country because they are looking for new horizons, because they are escaping hunger or war. It is enough to think of Syria…” He added, “If we do not take care of migrants we lose a great part of humanity, of the culture that they represent.”
Speaking on the same subject, the Pope called for sincerity and for us to recognize the contribution that people coming from other countries have made during this time of confinement. “During the lockdown period there were many migrants who took great risks by working the land, keeping cities clean, and carrying out multiple services. It is painful to see how they are not recognized and valued, and how some distant event is used to discredit so many people who supported us with their work.” Pope Francis went further by inviting us to look into the causes of migration, in the case of Lebanon or Syria. “They are whole families that escape from a war that they do not understand. Can our countries remain neutral in this painful situation?”
A Church of the Poor
Pope Francis also highlighted the fact that “There are priests, religious, lay people, nuns, and bishops who spend their lives to achieve this. There are very beautiful examples that show the way.”
In this context, the Pope expressed his hope for all humanity. “Humanity is capable of reacting, especially on the periphery, if it is organized. Regarding culture, I like to think of the soul of the people, of that spiritual reserve which allows them to always come out ahead.”
The Pope recalled peoples who are persecuted, such as the Yazidis and the Rohingya, of whom he affirmed that they are suffering, persecuted peoples. “So, we should reach out to those peoples who are suffering and, until all of humanity takes responsibility for this, there is no hope. The hope of the periphery, of the marginalized.”
Asked about his relationship with social networks as an instrument of evangelization, the Pope replied, “I used to be allergic to them … So have a little fun with this failure of my allergy.”
Pope Francis said there can be no separation between what happens to human beings and what happens on the planet we inhabit. We are one single unit. “The climate is changing; we are missing opportunities … We cannot play with the sea, with the universe. We have to take care of it.”
Finally, in the context of the 500 years of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Pope expressed his desire to go to Manresa, where Ignatius began his journey of conversion.
“I believe that the conversion of St. Ignatius is also an encounter of the heart and can invite us to reflect on our personal conversion, to ask for the gift of conversion to love and serve more in the way of Jesus Christ.”