Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
After a tiring one-day visit to Geneva, Pope Francis fielded questions from among approximately 60 journalists on board the return flight. Concern for young people, interfaith marriage, immigration and “just war”, were some of the topics raised.
Pope Francis said that concern for “young people” was the predominant topic discussed between him and the President of the Swiss Confederation and members of the World Council of Churches. The pre-Synod meeting in March involving thousands of youth from many religious backgrounds—even non-believers—“aroused special interest”, he said.
A journalist asked the Pope about his recent response to the German Bishops regarding opening the possibility of the reception of Communion by a non-Catholic Christian spouse married to a Catholic. Pope Francis said that the question needs to be explored more profoundly in order to find the best solution. While appreciating the thought demonstrated in the document drafted by the Episcopal Conference of Germany, the Pope said that Canon Law gives the responsibility of evaluating interfaith marriage questions to the local bishop, not to the Episcopal Conference. He concluded that he is not “halting” the issue, but that it’s a matter of choosing the best course of action.
Pope Francis reiterated four verbs that he has said need to be adopted by the countries experiencing immigration: welcome, accompany, accommodate, integrate. He said he is horrified hearing about the unspeakable cruelty experienced by immigrants at the hands of traffickers. Governments must reach an agreement to manage the crisis. In addition, a plan to invest in the countries of origin is necessary in order to change a cultural mentality that it is okay to “exploit Africa”, the Pope said.
Another journalist asked whether the Catholic Church should join other churches in rejecting the “just war theory”. “A commitment for peace is a serious thing”, Pope Francis said. The problem is essentially a human rights issue from which “some countries distance themselves”. Conflicts should not be resolved like Cain, but through “negotiation, dialogue, mediation”, he continued. “Along with churches that promote peace, are there others who promote war?” Pope Francis asked. It is good to remember that there are some groups in almost every religion promoting war, and “there are even some Catholics who always seek destruction”.
Pope Francis then spontaneously told the journalists that “in the ecumenical movement, the word proselytism needs to be removed from the dictionary”. The two cannot exist together. “You have to choose”, he said. “Either you have an ecumenical spirit, or you proselytize”.