It was genocide of the indigenous peoples. On the return flight from Iqaluit to Rome, Pope Francis responded to a Canadian journalist's question and spoke about the themes of the just-concluded penitential pilgrimage, and of old and new colonialism.
He also addressed the issue of resigning from the papacy, repeatedly prompted by the journalists' questions, explaining that for the time being, he does not intend to resign even though he considers it a possibility. At the start of the press conference, Pope Francis thanked the journalists flying with him: “Good evening and thank you for your accompaniment, for your work here. I know you have worked hard and thank you for the company, thank you.”
The following is a working translation of the Pope's conversation with journalists:
As a descendant of a residential school survivor, I know that survivors and their families want to see concrete actions following your apology, including the rejection of the "doctrine of discovery." Considering that this is still enshrined in the Constitution and legal systems in Canada and the United States, where indigenous peoples continue to be defrauded of their lands and deprived of power, was it not a missed opportunity to make a statement to this effect during your trip to Canada?
I didn’t understand the second part of the question, could you explain what you mean by doctrine of discovery?
When I talk to indigenous people, they say that when people came to colonize America, there was this doctrine of discovery that somehow promoted the idea that the indigenous peoples of the new countries were inferior to the Catholics. This is how Canada and the United States became "countries."
Thank you for the question. I think this is a problem of all colonialism. Everyone, even to this day: today's ideological colonizations have the same pattern. Whoever doesn't enter its path is inferior. But I want to expand on this. They were considered not only inferior: some somewhat crazy theologian even wondered if they had a soul. When John Paul II went to Africa, to the gate where the slaves were boarded [Gorée Island, the gate of no return], he offered a sign so that we would come to understand the drama, the criminal drama: those people were thrown into the ship, in dire conditions, and then they became slaves in America. It is true that there were voices that spoke out, like Bartolomeo de las Casas, for example, or Pedro Claver, but they were the minority. The consciousness of human equality came slowly. And I say consciousness, because in the unconscious there is still something. We have - allow me to say it - a somewhat colonialist attitude of reducing their culture to ours. It is something that comes to us from the developed way of life, our own, because of which we sometimes lose values that they have. For example: indigenous peoples have a great value which is the value of harmony with Creation, and at least some people I know express that in the word “well-living”. That does not mean, as we westerners understand, to spend it well or to live the sweet life: no. To live well is to cherish harmony, and that to me is the great value of the original peoples. It is harmony. We are used to reducing everything to the head: instead, the personality of the original peoples-I am speaking generally-who know how to express themselves in three languages: that of the head, that of the heart and that of the hands. But all together. And they know how to have this language with Creation. Then, this accelerated progressivism of the somewhat exaggerated, somewhat neurotic development that we have, right? I'm not speaking against development, development is good. But it is not good with the anxiety of development, development, development ... Look, one of the things that our overdeveloped, commercial civilization has lost is the capacity for poetry: indigenous peoples have that poetic capacity. I'm not idealizing. Then, this doctrine of colonization, which it's true, it's bad and unfair, even today is used, the same, with silk gloves, maybe, but it is used, today. For example, some bishops from some countries have said to me, "But, our country, when they ask for credit from an international organization, they put conditions on us, even legislative, colonialist conditions. To give you credit they make you change your way of life a little bit."
Going back to the colonization of America—let’s say that of the Americas—that of the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Portuguese, there has always been a danger, a mentality of "we are superior and these indigenous people don't matter," and that is serious. That's why we have to work in what you say: go back and sanitize, let's say, what was done wrong, in the knowledge that even today the same colonialism exists. Think, for example, of one case, which is universal, and allow me to say so. I think of the case of the Rohingya, in Myanmar: they have no right to citizenship, they are of a lower level. Even today. Thank you very much.
Good evening, Pope Francis. My name is Brittany Hobson from the Canadian Press. You have often said that it is necessary to speak in clear, honest, direct terms and with parresia. You know that the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission described the residential school system as cultural genocide, and that expression has been corrected to genocide simply. The people who heard your words of apology this past week lamented the fact that the term genocide was not used. Would you use that term and acknowledge that members of the Church participated in this genocide?
It's true, I didn't use the word because it didn't come to mind, but I described the genocide and asked for forgiveness, forgiveness for this ‘operation’ that is genocidal. For example, I condemned this too: Taking away children, changing culture, changing mentalities, changing traditions, changing a race, let's say, a whole culture. Yes, it's a technical word - genocide - but I didn't use it because it didn't come to mind, but I described… It is true, yes, yes, it was genocide. You can all be calm about this. You can say that I said that it was genocide.
Pope Francis, good evening. We assume that this trip to Canada was also a test, a test for your health, for what you called this morning "physical limitations." So we wanted to know: after this week, what can you tell us about your future travels? If you want to continue traveling like this? If there will be any travels that you cannot do because of these limitations or if maybe after a week, you think that the knee surgery could solve more and permit you travel as before?
Thank you. I don't know ... I don't think I can go with the same pace of the trips as before. I think at my age and with this limitation, I have to save [my energies up] a bit to be able to serve the Church or, on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping aside. This [I say] with all honesty: it is not a catastrophe, it is possible to change Pope, it is possible to change, no problem! But I think I have to limit myself a bit with these efforts. Knee surgery for me isn’t an option, it isn’t ok for me, in my case. The technicians [health care professionals] say it is, but there is the whole problem of anesthesia. Ten months ago, I underwent more than six hours of anesthesia, and there are still traces. You don't play [around], you don't mess around, with anesthesia. And that's why I don’t think it is entirely appropriate. But I will try to continue to make Trips and be close to people, because I think closeness is a way to serve. But I do not have more than that to say. Hopefully ... In Mexico, there is no visit foreseen yet, no? [Pope Francis already visited Mexico, but refers to the fact that Valentina Alazraki is a veteran Mexican journalist]
No, no ... what about traveling to Kazakhstan? And if you were to go to Kazakhstan, shouldn't you maybe also go to Ukraine?
I said I would like to go to Ukraine. Let's see now what I find when I get home. Kazakhstan, for the moment, I would like to go: it's a quiet trip, without so much movement, there is a congress of religions. But for the moment, everything stays [status quo]. Also, I have to go to South Sudan as well as Congo, because it's a trip with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of the Church of Scotland, all three together, as all three of us participated in the retreat [in the Vatican] two years ago. Then, Congo. But it will be next year, because the rainy season let's see: I have all the good will, but let's see what the leg says.
You met in the archbishopric this morning with local members of the Society of Jesus, your family; as you always do during your travels. Nine years ago returning from Brazil, I had asked you, if you still felt Jesuit. Your answer was positive. On Dec. 4 after seeing the Jesuits in Greece, you said that when one starts a process, one must let it develop, let the work grow, and then one must retire. “Every Jesuit," you said, "must do this, no work belongs to him because it belongs to the Lord.” Could this statement one day apply to a Jesuit Pope?
I think so, yes.
Does that mean you could retire like the Jesuits?
Yes. Yes. It's a vocation.
To be Pope or to be a Jesuit?
Jesuit. Let the Lord say. The Jesuit tries - he tries, he doesn't always, but he tries - to do the Lord's will. The Jesuit Pope must also do the same. When the Lord speaks, if the Lord says go ahead, you go ahead, if the Lord says, go to the corner, you go to the corner. It is the Lord who...
What you say, it means that one expects death at that point....
But we all wait for death....
I mean: doesn't one retire first?
What the Lord says. The Lord can say resign. It is the Lord who commands.
One thing about St. Ignatius, this is important. St. Ignatius when one was tired, sick, dispensed him from prayer, but never dispensed from examination of conscience. Twice a day: look at what has happened in my heart today. Not sins or no sins, but what spirit moved me today. Our vocation is to look for what happened today. If I-this is a hypothesis-I see that the Lord is telling me something, that something has happened to me, that I have an inspiration, I have to discern to see what the Lord is asking for. It may also be that the Lord wants to send me to the corner, He is in charge. This is the religious way of life of a Jesuit, to be in spiritual discernment to make decisions, to choose a path of work, of commitment as well... Discernment is the key in the Jesuit's vocation. This is important. St. Ignatius in this was very fine because it was his own experience of spiritual discernment that led him to conversion. And the spiritual exercises are really a school of discernment. So the Jesuit must be by vocation a man of discernment: discerning situations, discerning his own conscience, discerning the decisions to be made. So he has to be open to whatever the Lord asks of him this is kind of our spirituality.
But do you feel more like a Pope or more like a Jesuit?
Never have I made that measurement, (never have I) measured (whether I am) more Pope or Jesuit. I feel I am a servant of the Lord with the Jesuit habit. There is no papal spirituality. That is not there. Each Pope brings forth his own spirituality. Think of St. John Paul II with that beautiful Marian spirituality he had. He had it before and he had it as Pope. Think of the many Popes who have carried on their spirituality.
The papacy is not a spirituality, it is a job, a function, a service. Everyone carries it out with his own spirituality, his own graces, his own faithfulness and also his own sins. But there is no papal spirituality. That is why there is no comparison between Jesuit spirituality and papal spirituality, because the latter does not exist. Do you understand?
Yesterday you also spoke of the fraternity of the Church, a community that knows how to listen and enter into dialogue that promotes a good quality of relationships. But a few days ago, there was the Holy See's statement on Germany's Synodal Way, (a text) without a signature. Do you think this way of communication contributes or is it an obstacle to dialogue?
First of all, that communiqué was made by the Secretariat of State... it was a mistake not to say that... I think it said communiqué of the Secretariat of State but I'm not sure. It was a mistake not to sign it as Secretariat of State, but a mistake of office, not of ill will. And on the Synodal Way I wrote a letter, by myself I did it: a month with prayer, reflection, consultations. And I said everything I had to say about the Synodical Way, more than that I will not say and that is the Papal Magisterium on the Synodical Way, that letter I wrote two years ago. I jumped over the Curia, because I didn't do consultations (in the Curia), nothing. I did as my own path also as a pastor (for) a Church that is looking for a path, as a brother, as a father and as a believer. And that is my message. I know it is not easy, but there it is all in that letter. Thank you.
Italy is going through a difficult time that also causes concern internationally. There is the economic crisis, the pandemic, the war, and now we are also without a government. You are the Primate of Italy: in your telegram to President Mattarella for his birthday you spoke of a country marked by not a few difficulties and called crucial choices. How did you experience Draghi's fall?
First of all, I do not want to meddle in Italian domestic politics. Second, no one can say that President Draghi was not a man of high international quality. He was president of the (European Central) Bank. He had a good career. I only asked one question to one of my staff: tell me, how many governments has Italy had in this century? He told me 20. This is my answer...
What appeal do you make to political forces in view of these difficult elections?
Responsibility. Civic responsibility..
Many Catholics, but also many theologians, believe that a development is needed in Church doctrine regarding contraceptives. It would seem that even your predecessor, John Paul I, thought that a total ban perhaps needed reconsideration. What are your thoughts on this, in the sense: are you open, in short, to a reevaluation in this regard? Or is there a possibility for a couple to consider contraceptives?
This is very timely. But know that dogma, morality, is always in a path of development, but in a development in the same direction. To use one thing that is clear, I think I have said it other times here: for the theological development of a moral or dogmatic issue, there is a rule that is very clear and illuminating. That's what Vincent of Lerins did in the 10th century more or less. He says that true doctrine in order to go forward, to develop, must not be quiet, it develops ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate. That is, it consolidates with time, it dilates and consolidates and comes more still but always progressing. That is why the duty of theologians is research, theological reflection, you cannot do theology with a "no" in front of it. Then it will be the Magisterium to say no, you have gone further, come back, but theological development must be open, theologians (there) are for that. And the Magisterium must help to understand the limits. On the issue of contraception, I know there is a publication out on this issue and other marriage issues. These are the proceedings of a congress and in a congress there are hypotheses, then they discuss among themselves and make proposals. We have to be clear: these who made this congress did their duty, because they tried to move forward in doctrine, but in an ecclesial sense, not out, as I said with that rule of St. Vincent of Lerins. Then the Magisterium will say, yes it is good or it is not good. But so many things are called. You think for example atomic weapons: today I have officially declared that the use and possession of atomic weapons is immoral. Think about death penalty: today I can say that we are close to immorality there, because the moral conscience has developed well. To be clear: when dogma or morality develops, it is fine, but in that direction, with the three rules of Vincent of Lerins. I think this is very clear: a Church that does not develop in an ecclesial sense, its thinking is a Church that goes backwards, and this is the problem of today, of so many who call themselves traditional. No, no, they are not traditional, they are [backward-looking], and they are going backwards, without roots: it has always been done that way, in the last century it was done that way. And [looking backward] is a sin because it does not go forward with the Church. Instead tradition said someone-I think I said it in one of the speeches-tradition is the living faith of the dead, instead these [who are] looking backward who call themselves traditionalists, it is the dead faith of the living. Tradition is precisely the root, the inspiration to go forward in the Church, and always this is vertical. And [looking backward] is going backward, it is always closed. It is important to understand well the role of tradition, which is always open, like the roots of the tree, and the tree grows... A musician had a very beautiful phrase: Gustav Mahler, said that tradition in this sense is the guarantee of the future, it is not a museum piece. If you conceive of tradition as closed, that is not the Christian tradition -- always it is the root juice that takes you forward, forward, forward. So for that, for what you say, thinking and carrying faith and morality forward, but while it goes in the direction of the roots, of the juice, it's fine. With these three rules of Vincent of Lerins that I mentioned.
At the end of August we have a consistory. Lately many people have asked you if you have thought about resigning, don't worry, we won't ask you this time, but we are curious: have you ever thought what characteristics you would like your successor to have?
This is a work of the Holy Spirit, you know? I would never dare to think... The Holy Spirit can do this better than me, better than all of us. Because he inspires the Pope's decisions, he always inspires. Because He is alive in the Church, you can't conceive of the Church without the Holy Spirit, He is the One who makes the differences, He also makes the noise-think of the morning of Pentecost-and then He makes the harmony. It is important to talk about "harmony" rather than "unity." Unity yes, but harmony, not as a fixed thing. The Holy Spirit gives you a progressive harmony, which goes on. I like what St. Basil says about the Holy Spirit: Ipse armonia est, He is harmony. He is harmony because first He makes the noise to you with the difference of charisms. So let us leave this work to the Holy Spirit. On my resignation, I would like to thank you for a nice article that one of you wrote (putting in) all the signs that could lead to a resignation and all those that are appearing. This is a nice job of a journalist who then eventually gives the opinion, but (meanwhile) goes and sees all the signals, not just the statements, with that underground language that (however) also gives signs. Knowing how to read the signs or at least make an effort to interpret that may be that one or the other, this is a good job for which I thank you so much.
Sorry Holy Father, I know you've had a lot of questions like this, but I wanted to ask, at this time, with the health difficulties and all, has the idea occurred to you that it may be time to retire? Have you had any problems that made you think about that? Have there been any difficult times that made you think about this?
The door is open, it's a normal option, but until today I haven't knocked on this door, I haven't said it's going to go in this room, I haven't had to think about this possibility. But that doesn't mean the day after tomorrow I don't start thinking, right? But right now I honestly don't. Also this trip was a little bit the test... it is true that you cannot make trips in this state, you have to maybe change the style a little bit, decrease, pay off the debts of the trips you still have to make, rearrange... But the Lord will tell. The door is open that is true. And then before I take my leave I would like to talk about something that is very important to me: the trip here in Canada was very much related to the figure of St. Anne. I said some things about women, but especially about older women, mothers and grandmothers. And I emphasized one thing that is clear: faith should be transmitted in dialect, and the dialect - I said it clearly - maternal, the dialect of grandmothers. We received the faith in that female dialect form, and this is very important: the role of the woman in the transmission of faith and the development of faith. It is the mother or grandmother who teaches how to pray, it is the mother or grandmother who explains the first things that the child does not understand about the faith. And I can say that this dialectal transmission of faith is feminine. Someone may say to me: but theologically how do you explain it? Because I will say (that) the one that transmits the faith is the Church and the Church is female, the Church is bride, the Church is not male, and the Church is female. And we have to enter into this thought of the woman Church, the mother Church, which is more important than any masculinist ministerial fantasy or any masculinist power. The mater Church, the motherhood of the Church. That which is the figure of the Mother of the Lord. It is important in this sense to emphasize the importance in the transmission of the faith of this maternal dialect. I discovered this by reading, for example, the martyrdom of the Maccabees: two or three times it says that Mother gave them soul in the maternal dialect. Faith should be transmitted in dialect. And that dialect is spoken by women. This is the great joy of the Church, because the Church is woman, the Church is bride. This I wanted to say clearly with St. Anne in mind. Thank you, thank you for your patience. Thank you for listening, rest and have a good journey.
Finally, the Pope took the microphone back to greet Paolo Rodari, vaticanista of Repubblica, on his last papal flight.