Pope: "God, the father of all, condemns all destruction, all terrorism''

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Pope: "God, the father of all, condemns all destruction, all terrorism''

By Domenico Agasso/aborad the Abu Dhabi-Rome flight

Francis on the flight from Abu Dhabi: War is my great concern. To Catholics who accuse him of being exploited by Muslims: the Document on Brotherhood is in line with the Council.

Pope Francis clarifies that for a diplomatic action of the Holy See in Venezuela the will of just one is not enough. Thus, the letter that Maduro sent to the Vatican is not enough: a request for intervention by Guaidó’s side is also needed. Pope Francis explains it on the flight back from Abu Dhabi, at the end of the three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates. The Pontiff, during his traditional press conference with journalists on the papal plane, emphasizes that Isis is not Islamism. On the war in Yemen, also fought by the Emirates, he says that “I have found good will in starting peace processes”. To the Catholics who accuse him of being exploited by the Muslims he replies: the document on Brotherhood is in line with the Council. On the nuns abused by priests: it’s true, there’s this problem; and “women are considered “second class””.

Before leaving the floor to the reporters, Francis thanked them “for the company. It was a journey all too short, but for me it was a great experience. I think that every journey is historic, even the present days”, in which “the history of every day is written... no story is small, every story is great and worthy even if ugly, the hidden dignity can always emerge”.

What will the fruits of this journey be, and what were your impressions of the United Arab Emirates?
“I saw a modern country, I was impressed by the city, its cleanliness. Including small curiosities: for example, how do they water the flowers in this desert. It is a place that welcomes the many people who go there, and also a country that looks to the future: the example is the education of children, they educate them to always look to the future. So they explained to me. Then another thing that struck me was the problem of water... they are trying for the near future to take sea water and make it drinkable, and also recover water from humidity... They are always looking for new things and I also heard that one day there will be a lack of oil: “We are preparing for (when there will be a shortage, ed) oil, now, so we’ll have something to do”. It seemed to me an open country, even their religiosity, even Islamism, is an open Islamism, of dialogue, a fraternal Islamism of peace. In fact they push education for peace, which is felt as a duty, despite the fact that there are some ongoing wars in the area. But I did not hear that... then the meeting with the wise elderly was very moving for me. The wise men of Islam, it’s a profound thing, they came from everywhere, from various cultures, and that also shows the opening of this country to a both a local and universal, religious dialogue.

The interreligious conference was impressive, this is a strong cultural event. In my speech I also mentioned what they did there, last year, on child pornography, in the media, on the Internet... in these things... because child pornography today is an industry that profits a lot of money, by taking advantage of children and this country has been aware of it for a long time. Positive things. Surely there are problems, but in a trip of less than three days you can’t see all these things, and if you happen to see them, one looks the other way (laughs, ed).

The journey was marked by the signing of the document on brotherhood: how will it be applied in the future and what are your thoughts over Prince Mohammed’s announcement to construct a church next to a mosque?
“The document was prepared with much reflection and praying, the Great Imam with his team and myself with mine. We prayed a lot to succeed in making this document because for me there is only one great danger, at this moment: destruction, war and hatred between us. And if we believers are not able to help each other, embrace each other and pray, our faith will be defeated. This document is born out of faith in God who is the father of all, and the father of peace and condemns all destruction, all terrorism. The first terrorism in history is that of Cain. It took almost a year to draft this document and lots of prayers”.

It was a journey full of meetings, impressions, images. When you landed, you were welcomed with military honours, with military planes spreading the Vatican colors in the sky. I wonder: what does this have to do with Pope Francis, with the Pope coming with a message of peace? What do you think of that? What do you feel and think in these moments? And again on this subject, your appeal for peace in Yemen: what reactions have you received in your meetings? Is there hope that this message will be accepted, that steps will be taken towards peace?

“I interpret all the gestures of welcome as gestures of good will, each one according to its own cultures. What have I found here? Such a great welcome, that they wanted to do everything, small things and big things, because they felt that the Pope’s visit was something good. Someone also said a blessing... God knows... But they wanted to make me feel that I was welcome. About the problem of wars: you mentioned one. I know that it’s difficult to give an opinion after two days and after having spoken on the subject only with a few people. I will say that I found good will in initiating peace processes. This, I saw. A common trait in the people to whom I have spoken about war situations. You mentioned Yemen’s: I found good will to start peace processes.

After the historic signing of the document, what do you think the consequences will be in the Islamic world? I am thinking above all of the conflicts in Yemen and Syria. And what are the consequences also among Catholics? Considering that there are some Catholics who accuse you of being exploited by Muslims.

“Not only by Muslims... (He laughs, ed.) They accuse me of being exploited by everyone, even by journalists. It’s part of the job, but I want to say one thing. From the Catholic point of view the document has not give way a millimeter from Vatican II, which is also cited several times. The document was made in the spirit of Vatican II. I wanted, before making the decision, to say it’s fine like that and we sign it like that, at least for my part I had it read by some theologian and also officially by the theologian of the Papal Household who is a Dominican, with the beautiful tradition of the Dominicans, not to go witch hunting, but to see the right thing... and he approved. If one feels bad, I understand it, it’s not an everyday thing... but it’s not a step backwards: it’s a step forward. A step forward that comes after 50 years, from the Council and that must develop. Historians say: it takes 100 years for a Council to root in the Church, we are halfway there. It has my attention. I’ll tell you: I’ve seen the phrase, but I don’t know if it’s a safe phrase, but it’s a phrase from the Council... it surprised me as well... Even in the Islamic world there are different opinions, there are some more radical, and others which are not. Yesterday in the council of wise men there was at least one Shiite, that gave a very great universality, he spoke well. There are discrepancies among them as well, but it’s a process and processes mature”.

You have just completed your visit to the Arab Emirates and will shortly be going to Morocco. We understand that you have chosen to speak with very specific interlocutors on Islam. Is it a strategy? The historical document signed yesterday is very ambitious for education, in your opinion can it really touch the Muslim faithful?
“I know and have heard from some Muslims that it will be studied in universities, for sure in Al-Azhar, and in schools. It has to be studied. Not imposed, but studied. The proximity of the two trips is a bit by chance, for I wanted to go to Marrakech (to the UN Conference on Migrations, ed) but there were protocol issues and I couldn’t go to an international meeting without having visited the country first, but I didn’t have time. And that is why we postponed the visit. And it was the Secretary of State who went to Marrakech. It’s a matter of diplomacy and politeness, too, but it wasn’t something planned. In Morocco I follow in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II who was the first to go. It will be a pleasant journey. Then invitations arrived from other Islamic countries but there is no time this year. Me or the other Peter, someone will go there”.

On the crisis in Venezuela: Maduro sent a letter asking for help for dialogue; Parolin knows the country well; is the Holy See available for possible mediation?
“Generally other small steps come first, the last one is a mediation; they are small initial steps, facilitators, but not only from the Vatican, all diplomacy. Closeness to one another in order to initiate possibilities for dialogue, this is how it’s done in diplomacy. The Secretariat of State will be able to explain well all the different steps that can be taken, I knew before the trip that a diplomatic letter from Maduro was coming, I have not yet read this letter. And we’ll see what can be done. But it takes the will of both sides for a mediation to take place. The initial conditions are clear: that both parties ask for it. We are always available. Like when people go to the priest because there is a problem between husband and wife: only one goes, “and what about the other party, coming or not coming? They want or they don’t want to?”. We always need both sides. This is a condition on which countries must think before asking for a facilitation or the presence of a savior or a mediator. Both sides are needed, always.”

You had a meeting with the council of elders. What themes did you touch on? Are you returning to Rome with the impression that the message has reached your interlocutors?
“The elderly really are wise. The Great Imam spoke first. Then each of them, starting with the oldest, who spoke Spanish, for he was from Mauritania. Elderly, eh, eighty years old. Up to the youngest, who is the secretary of the council of elders. He spoke little, but said everything in a video: his specialty: he is a communicator. I liked this, it was a beautiful thing. The key word is “wisdom”. Then “fidelity”. Then they underlined a way of life with which this wisdom grows and fidelity becomes stronger. And from there the friendship between peoples is born. One (of the imams) was Shiite. Then they stressed how wisdom and fidelity as an important path for building peace. Because peace is a work of wisdom and fidelity. Human fidelity, between peoples and all this. I was left with the impression of being in the midst of true sages. It is a guarantee for the Great Imam to have this council”.

Are you satisfied?
“Yes. Very satisfied”.

Imam Al-Tayyeb denounced Islamophobia, why wasn’t something said about Christian-phobia, about the persecution of Christians?
“I spoke about the persecution of Christians, not at that moment, but I talk about it frequently, even on this trip I spoke about it, yet I don’t remember where, but I did speak about it. The document also condemns violence and some groups that call themselves Islamic and persecute Christians, the wise say it’s not Islam. I remember a father with three children, he was 30 years old, he cried: “I am Islamic, my wife was Christian, ISIS terrorists came, they saw the cross and told her: convert! And they cut her throat before me”. This is our daily bread coming from terrorist groups, the destruction of the person. The document condemns this.

A reflection on the freedom of belief and worship...

“The process has a beginning, obviously, one prepares an act then there is one before and one after. Freedom is a process, more and more, it moves forward.

Before leaving I met a 13 year old boy in Rome.

He told me: “Holiness, I am an atheist, what do I have to do as an atheist to become a man of peace?”. I said, “do what you feel”, I spoke to him a little, but I liked the boy’s courage, he’s an atheist but he’s looking for “good”. That road, that too is a process, a process that we must respect and accompany. To accompany all the processes towards good, all of them, of whatever colour. I believe that these are steps forward”.

The women’s magazine of the Osservatore Romano published an article denouncing the sexual abuse of consecrated women in the Church by the clergy. A few months ago the Union of Superiors General also made a public complaint. We know that the next meeting in the Vatican will be on child abuse. Will the Holy See do something to address this problem with a document or guidelines?
“It’s true, it’s a problem. The mistreatment of women is a problem. I would venture to say that humanity has not yet matured: the woman is considered “second class”. Let’s start from here: it’s a cultural problem. Then we get to the feminicides (murder of women ed). There are countries in which the mistreatment of women ends into a feminicide. It’s true, within the Church there have been clerics who have done this. In some civilizations more than in others. There have been priests and also bishops who have done that. And I believe it’s still being done: though it does not end the moment you realize this. The thing keeps going on like that. And we’ve been working on that for some time. We have suspended some clergyman, sending them away, and also - I don’t know if the trial is over - dissolve some female religious congregation that was very tied to this phenomenon, a corruption. Should something more be done? Yes. Do we have the will? Yes, we do. But it’s a path that comes from afar. Pope Benedict had the courage to dissolve a high-level female congregation, because this slavery, even sexual slavery, had entered it on the part of the clergy or on the part of the founder. Sometimes the founder strips the nuns of their freedom, he can get to that. I would like to stress that Benedict XVI had the courage to do many things on this subject. There is an anecdote: he had all the papers on a religious organization that had sexual and economic corruption within it. He tried to talk about it but there were filters, he couldn’t break through. In the end the Pope, with the desire to see the truth, called a meeting to which Joseph Ratzinger went with the report and all his papers. When he returned, he said to his secretary: put it in the archive, the other party won. We must not be scandalised by this, they are steps in a process, for as soon as he became Pope, the first thing he said was: bring me the file from the archive. Folklore shows him as weak, but he has nothing weak. He’s a good man, a piece of bread is worse than him, but he’s a strong man. About this problem: pray that we can go on. I want to go on. There are cases. We are working on them”.
Today a little girl brought you a letter. She ran to you when you were in the car. Have you read it yet?

“Not yet...the letters are there, they’re classifying them for me to read later.
Can you tell us what your impression was when you saw this little girl coming towards you... this little girl who ran away in the crowd...?
“She’s a brave little girl! Let her come, but that little girl has a future, eh, she has a future... and I dare say: poor husband... (laughs). She has a future, she’s brave, I liked it! It takes courage to do that, and then another one followed her, it was two...she saw that one go and took courage”.

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:31
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