Pope Francis: "The Church’s assets belong to humanity''

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Pope Francis: "The Church’s assets belong to humanity''

By Iacopo Scaramuzzi

In an interview with Dutch newspaper Straatnieuws, published by the homeless, on Friday November 6, Pope Francis said that the Church’s assets belong to humanity, the risk of corruption is ever present. He joked that as a child he played football with two left feet and wanted to be a butcher

“When a believer speaks about poverty but leads the life of a Pharaoh, this is not on.” Francis said this in an interview with Dutch newspaper Straatnieuws on 27 October, which Vatican Radio translated today. In the interview, Francis warns against the “temptation of corruption” which is always lurking in public life, “both political and religious”.

The interviewers asked the Pope whether he feared that his defence of solidarity and help for the homeless and other poor people could be exploited for political purposes and what language the Church should use in order to remain influential on the one hand but also avoid political alliances: “There are paths that lead to mistakes in this field,” Francis replied. “I would like to underline two temptations. The Church needs to use the language of truth and testimony: the testimony of poverty. When a believer speaks about poverty but leads the life of a Pharaoh, this is not on. This is the first temptation. The other temptation is that of making agreements with governments. Agreements can be made but they have to be clear and transparent. For example: we manage this building, but the accounts are all monitored in order to prevent corruption. Because there is always the temptation to corruption in public life – both political and religious. When Argentina, under military dictatorship at the time, went to war with Great Britain over the Islas Malvinas (or Falkland Islands, Ed.), I remember I was once greatly saddened to see people giving things away and I saw many people, including Catholics, who were supposed to deliver them, taking them home. The risk of corruption is ever present. I once asked an honest Argentinian minister a question. He had left his position because he could not accept some of the shady dealings that were going on. I asked him a question: When you send out aid, be it food, clothes or money to the poor and the destitute, how much of what you send actually reaches them, both in terms of money and expenses? 35%, he told me. This means that 65% was lost. This is corruption: one bit for me, another bit for me.”

“If we made a list of all the Church’s assets one would think the Church is very rich. But when the Holy See and Italy signed the Concordat on the Roman Question in 1929, the Italian government at the time offered the Church a big park in Rome. The then Pope, Pius XI turned the offer down, saying he only wanted half a square kilometre in order to guarantee the Church’s independence. This principle is still valid today. Yes, the Church has a great many properties but we use these to keep the Church structures up and running and to sustain the many works being done in countries that are in need: hospitals, schools. Yesterday, for example, I asked for €50,000 to be sent to Congo so that three schools could be built in poor villages; children’s education is important. I went to the administrative body in charge, placed my request and the money was sent.” Asked whether he is ever tempted to sell the treasures of the Vatican, Francis replied: “This is an easy question. They are not the treasures of the Church, but the treasures of humanity.” For example, if tomorrow, I say that Michelangelo’s Pietà is to be put up for auction, this is not possible because it is not the Church’s property. It is in a church but it belongs to humanity. The same goes for all the Church’s treasures. But we have started to sell gifts and other things I receive. And sales proceeds go to my Almoner, Mgr. Krajewski. We also hold raffles. Some cars were sold or given away through a raffle and the proceeds went to the poor. But there are things which can be sold and are sold.”

The Pope also stressed that he chose to live in St. Martha’s House in order to be with people. “I can’t live here – he said speaking about the Apostolic Palace –, it’s purely for psychological reasons. I wouldn’t feel good. At first it seemed like a strange decision but I asked to stay here in St. Martha’s House. And it’s good for me because I feel free. I eat with everyone else in the dining hall and when I’m early, I eat with the staff here. I meet people, I greet them and this makes the golden cage less of a cage. But I do miss the street.”

The Pope was interviewed by a Dutch newspaper published with the help of homeless people. he was interviewed by a journalist and a person without a fixed abode. The interviews conducted by the newspaper always begin with a question about the street where the interviewee grew up. The Pope talked about the street he and his parents lived on in Buenos Aires. Speaking about his election as leader of the Catholic Church, he said “it came out of the blue. I kept a cool head. And this is a grace from God I don’t think so much about the fact I’m famous. I say to myself: right now I have an important position but in ten years who’s going to know you (laughs)?You know, there are two kinds of fame: the fame of ‘great’ people who have accomplished great things, like Marie Curie and the fame of vain people. But the second is ephemeral.”

When asked about whether he would consider visiting the Netherlands if the homeless invited him, Francis said: “The doors are not closed to this possibility,” Francis replied and then joked, “Now that the Netherlands have an Argentinian queen, who knows.” Maxima Zorreguieta, the wife of William Alexander, King of the Netherlands, was born in Buenos Aires. The Pope, who said he had been to the Netherlands once when he was a provincial of the Argentinian Jesuits, sent a message to the homeless, which read: “I am not completely familiar with the conditions of homeless people in the Netherlands. I would like to say that the Netherlands is a developed country that offers many possibilities. I would encourage Dutch homeless people to carry on fighting for the three “t’s”: trabajo (work), techo (housing) and tierra (land).

In the interview there was even room for some jokes: when the Pope said he played football as a child, the interviewers asked whether he was any good, to which Francis responded: “No.” “Back in Buenos Aires, those who played like I did were dubbed the hard potatoes. In other words, we had two left feet. But I would play, and often I’d be goalie.” “when I was little, we didn’t have shops that sold things. There was a market where you had a butcher, a fruit and veg stall etc. I would go shopping with mum and my granny. I was tiny, I was just four years old. And one day they asked me: ‘What would you like to be when you grow up?’ ‘A butcher!’, I replied.

Sat, 11/07/2015 - 21:40
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