Search for a new balance: Interview with a Jesuit Pope

Jesuit Pontiff

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and contraception," Francis declared in  August, 2013: "Pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrine." 

America, Septmeber, 2013

This interview with Pope Francis took place during August 2013 in Rome and was conducted by Antonio Spadaro, SJ, editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. This is his account:

I enter his room and the Pope invites me to sit in his easy chair. He himself sits on a chair that is higher and stiffer because of his back problems. The setting is simple, austere. The workspace occupied by the desk is small.

I am impressed not only by the simplicity of the furniture, but also by the objects in the room. There are only a few. These include an icon of St Francis, a statue of Our Lady of Luján, patron saint of Argentina, a crucifix and a statue of St Joseph sleeping, very similar to the one which I had seen in his office at the Colegio Máximo de San Miguel, where he was rector and also provincial superior.

The spirituality of Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not made of “harmonised energies,” as he would call them, but of human faces: Christ, St Francis, St Joseph and Mary.

The Pope welcomes me with that smile that has already travelled all around the world, that same smile that opens hearts. We begin speaking about many things, but above all about his trip to Brazil.

The Pope considers it a true grace. I ask him if he has had time to rest. He tells me that yes, he is doing well, but above all that World Youth Day was for him a “mystery.”

He says that he is not used to talking to so many people: “I manage to look at individual persons, one at a time, to enter into personal contact with whomever I have in front of me. I’m not used to the masses.”

I tell him that it is true, that people notice it, and that it makes a big impression on everyone. You can tell that whenever he is among a crowd of people his eyes actually rest on individual persons.

Then the television cameras project the images and everyone can see them. This way he can feel free to remain in direct contact, at least with his eyes, with the individuals he has in front of him. To me, he seems happy about this: that he can be who he is, that he does not have to alter his ordinary way of communicating with others, even when he is in front of millions of people, as happened on the beach at Copacabana.

Before I switch on the voice-recorder, we also talk about other things. Commenting on one of my own publications, he tells me that the two contemporary French thinkers that he holds dear are Henri De Lubac, SJ, and Michel de Certeau, SJ.

I also speak to him about more personal matters. He, too, speaks to me on a personal level, in particular about his election to the Pontificate. He tells me that when he began to realise that he might be elected, on Wednesday, March 13, during lunch, he felt a deep and inexplicable peace and interior consolation come over him, along with a great darkness, a deep obscurity about everything else. And those feelings accompanied him until his election later that day.

Actually I would have liked to continue speaking with him in this very personal manner for much longer, but I take up my papers, filled with questions that I had written down before, and I turn on the voice-recorder. 

MORE:

Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control (The New York Times)

Timothy Radcliffe: A New Way of Being Church (America)

James Martin SJ: Listening to the Pope (America)

RELATED:

Our Favorite Quotes From Pope Francis' Interview With Argentina's La Nacion (Huff Post Religion)

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