The Tablet – Interview with Pope Francis I

Pope calls for Church to be more merciful, collegial and audacious

Robert Mickens in Rome – 19 September 2013

Pope Francis – in a wide-ranging interview with the Jesuit journal, Civiltà Cattolica – has expressed hope for a more merciful and healing Church that is not “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently”.

In the 12,000-word interview released today, the Pope admits that he has been reprimanded by some for not speaking out against “abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods”. Insisting that all these things had to be dealt with in particular contexts, he said flatly: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

The interview with Francis was conducted in August by Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, the editor of the Rome-based fortnightly, Civiltà Cattolica. The English translation was jointly produced by America, the weekly magazine of the US Jesuits, and the Thinking Faith, the on-line journal of the British Jesuits.

The 76-year-old Pope, himself a Jesuit, describes the current state of the Church as “a field hospital after battle” that needs to “heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful”. Though he briefly mentions his desire for reforms to some Church structures (synods, consistories of cardinals and even the exercise of papal primacy), he says a change of attitude must come first. “The first reform must be the attitude,” he says. Catholics, he maintains, want their priests and bishops to be “pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials”.

During the interview Pope Francis strongly affirmed the renewal movement of the Second Vatican Council as “irreversible”. He explicitly cites the liturgical reform as a “service to the people”, while calling Benedict XVI’s permission to more widely use the pre-Vatican II Mass as “prudent” and aimed at helping people attached to it. But he then criticised “restorationist” and “legalistic” Catholics who are “stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists”.

The Argentine Pope said there is need to “further investigate the role of women in the Church”, even in “those places where the authority of the Church is exercised for the various areas of the Church”. He said, “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”

Francis also elaborated on his comments about gay people, which he made in July on his plane back from Rio de Janeiro. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he recalls. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person,” he says.

The Pope admitted that he had an “authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions” when he was the 36-year-old provincial superior of the Argentine Jesuits. He says he “created problems” and was “accused of being ultraconservative”. But he said, “I have never been a right-winger.”

When asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio“, the Pope responded: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

Read the interview here.


I make no apology for posting a second view of the Pope’s latest excursions into the Press, this time with a report in ‘The Tablet’ from Robert Mickens in Rome.

In view of the assumed conservatism of the Vatican’s seeming back-peddling on the outcome of Vatican II, which was instigated by Good Pope John XXIII; the following comment seems apposite:

“Though he (Pope Francis)  briefly mentions his desire for reforms to some Church structures (synods, consistories of cardinals and even the exercise of papal primacy), he says a change of attitude must come first. “The first reform must be the attitude,” he says. Catholics, he maintains, want their priests and bishops to be “pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials”.

In his insistence that pastoral care take precedence over dogmatic proclamation, Pope Francis is following in the footsteps of his much-revered predecessor, Francis of Assisi, whose humility and service of the poor marked him out a the sort of saintly figure that might expected to guide the Church in its ministry to the world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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6 Responses to The Tablet – Interview with Pope Francis I

  1. lotharson says:

    I am a former Evangelical having become a non-denominational Christian and I really love Pope Francis!

    That said while it is certain I sin I have huge problems with this notion of being a born sinner having been cursed by God with a sinful nature.
    I think it is a blasphemous Augustinian teaching which has been polluting Western Christianity ever since the fifth century. I find the Eastern Orthodox interpretation of the fall philosophically much more acceptable.

    I would be very glad to learn yout thoughts on that!

    Friendly greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    • kiwianglo says:

      As both an evangelical and catholic Anglican, I can sympathise with your problems with our inheritance of the ‘Sin of Adam’. However, I am impressed with Pope Francis’ declaration of his own sharing in our common human sinfulness. I don’t think God has actually ‘cursed’ us, by allowing our inheritance of the nature of sin (which, after all, is that within us that rebels against God’s best plan for us). The mythical understanding given to us by the Scriptures is that – given the opportunity to obey God, Adam chose to disobey God (by tasting the fruit of the Garden of Eden.

      Given that ‘The Fall’ in this story if deeply mythical, we need to understand that, by choice, our human nature has been skewed towards the sin of disobedience. Therefore, our ‘sinful nature’ needed (needs?) to be turned back to its first innocence by the direct intervention of God in Christ. Incidentally, in the words of the traditional ‘Exultet’, sung on Easter Eve, one hears these words: “O happy sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer”.

      Interestingly, when Jesus is addressed in the Gospel as ‘Good Master’, he immediately corrects his his interlocutor with these words: “Who are you calling good? there is One alone Who is good” (He is speaking of the Eternal God, rather than the human Jesus, who at the Incarnation shared our common human nature). The paradox is that Jesus, in human form, “Took our sins upon himself”, so that only by His self-offering on the cross could our common human nature become redeemed. It took the God/man, Jesus to restore human nature to the possibility of its fist innocence.

      As Pope Francis has said: “I, too, am a sinner”. Like all of us, he IS a Sinner, but redeemed by Christ. Alleluia!

      • lotharson says:


        I agree that a mythical understanding of the fall decreases the strength of many problems.

        But why did God create us with an inclination to evil?

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

      • kiwianglo says:

        God created us with the dignity of free-will responses to his invitation to the pursuit of goodness. That is still the problem at the heart of God’s human creation: We can still choose good or evil for ourselves. God is not a despot. Nor are we, his children, automatons. We have been given freedom to choose – good or evil! Blessings, Fr. Ron

  2. Pingback: New interview shows why the pope is so beloved | the little things

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