By VATICAN NEWS
"Abortion is murder: the Church cannot change its position, but "every time the bishops have as pastors, they have taken sides on the political front." These were Pope Francis’ words during a conversation with journalists on the papal flight from Bratislava to Rome, at the conclusion of his trip to Budapest and Slovakia.
Istávan Károly Kuzmányi (Magyar Kurir): Holy Father, thank you for your visit to Budapest where you quoted Cardinal Mindszenty who said, "If there are one million Hungarians praying, I am not afraid of the future..." Why did you decide to participate in the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest after 21 years, and how do you see Christianity in Europe?
Some people had bad thoughts about the visit to Budapest, it was planned that way, but I promised your President to see whether it will be possible to come back next year or the following one. The Hungarians have so many values, I was struck by a deep, deep sense of ecumenism. In general, Europe - I always say this - must resume the dreams of its Founding Fathers. The European Union is not a meeting in which to get things done, there is a spirit behind the EU that Schumann, Adenauer, De Gasperi dreamed of. There's the danger that it has become just a managerial office, and that is not good, it must delve into its essence, search for Europe’s roots and nourish them. And all the countries must move forward. It is true that there are some interests, perhaps not European ones, that attempt to use the European Union for ideological colonization, and this is not good. I was with you in Transylvania, that Mass was beautiful.
Bohumil Petrik (Dennik Standard): The issue of vaccination has divided Christians in Slovakia. You say that it is an act of love to get vaccinated, but there have been different approaches in different Dioceses. How do we reconcile on this issue?
It is a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines: measles, polio... perhaps this agitation is due to uncertainty, not only regarding the pandemic. There is the diversity of the vaccines, and also the reputation of some vaccines that they are a little more than distilled water, and this has created fear. There are others who say they are dangerous because they claim that the vaccine introduces the virus into one’s system. Even in the college of cardinals there are some ‘deniers,’ and one of them, poor man, is in hospital with the virus. It’s an irony of life. I can't explain it well, some say it’s because vaccines are not sufficiently tested. It must be quite clear: everyone in the Vatican is vaccinated except for a small group that is being is being assisted.
Daniel Verdú Palai (El Pais): On Sunday morning you met with Orbán and one can understand some of the differences. We wanted to ask how the meeting went, whether you touched on the issues of migrants and how you feel about the laws on homosexuals that he has enacted.
I was visited, the President came to see me, he had this courtesy. It is the third time I have met him, and he came with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister. The President spoke. The first topic was ecology, really chapeau for you Hungarians, the ecological conscience that you have. He explained how they purify the rivers, things that I did not know. Then I asked about the average age, because I am worried about the demographic winter. In Italy the average age is 47, Spain I think is even worse, many villages are empty or with many elderly people. How can this be resolved? The president explained to me the law they have to help young couples to get married and have children. Interesting, it is a law that is quite similar to the French law, but more developed. They explained this to me, there they added something, the Prime Minister and the Vice-Minister on how this law was. On immigration, nothing. Then we went back to ecology. The family, in the sense of demography: you can see that there are so many young people, so many children. In Slovakia, too, there are many young couples. Now the challenge is to find jobs, so that they don't go abroad looking for them. But these were the things... The president always spoke, both ministers added some data. The meeting lasted quite a long time, about 40 minutes.
Gerard O'Connell (America): First of all, I wanted to tell you that we are all happy about the surgery, which produced a wonderful result, you are rejuvenated!
Pope Francis: They told me that some people wanted to have the operation.... But it wasn't cosmetic!
O’Connell: You have often said that we are all sinners, and that the Eucharist is not a reward for the perfect but a medicine and food for the weak. As you know, in the USA after the last elections, there was a discussion among the bishops about giving communion to politicians who supported abortion laws, and there are bishops who want to deny communion to the president and other officials. Some bishops are in favourable, others say not to use the Eucharist as a weapon. What do you think and what do you advise the bishops to do? And have you as a bishop in all these years publicly refused the Eucharist to anyone?
Pope Francis: I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone; I don't know if anyone has come in these conditions! This even as a priest. I have never been conscious of having a person like the one you describe in front of me, that is true. The only time I've ever had a nice thing happen was when I went to serve Mass in an old people's home, I was in the living room, and I said: who wants Communion? All the old people raised their hands. One little old lady raised her hand and took Communion and said: "Thank you, I'm Jewish" And I said: "What I gave you is Jewish too!"
Communion is not a prize for the perfect - think of Jansenism - Communion is a gift, a present, it is the presence of Jesus in the Church and in the community. Then, those who are not in the community cannot take Communion, like this Jewish lady, but the Lord wanted to reward her without my knowledge. Out of the community – ex-communicated - because they are not baptised or have drifted away.
The second problem, that of abortion: it's more than a problem, it's homicide, whoever has an abortion, kills. No mincing words. Take any book on embryology for medical students. The third week after conception, all the organs are already there, even the DNA... it is a human life, this human life must be respected, this principle is so clear! To those who cannot understand, I would ask this question: Is it right to kill a human life to solve a problem? Is it right to hire a hitman to kill a human life? Scientifically, it is a human life. Is it right to take it out to solve a problem? That is why the Church is so harsh on this issue, because if it accepts this, it is as if it accepts daily murder. A Head of State told me that the demographic decline began because in those years there was such a strong law on abortion that six million abortions were performed and this left a decline in births in the society of that country.
Now we go to that person who is not in the community, who cannot receive Communion. And this is not a punishment, he is outside. But the problem is not theological, it is pastoral, how we bishops manage this principle pastorally. And if we look at the history of the Church, we will see that every time the bishops have not dealt with a problem as pastors, they have taken sides on a political front. Think of the night of St Bartholomew's, “Heretics, yes, let's cut their throats!... Think of the witch-hunts… of Campo di Fiori, of Savonarola. When the Church defends a principle, when it does so in a non-pastoral manner, it takes sides on a political level, and this has always been the case, just look at history. What must the pastor do? Be a pastor, don’t go condemning. Be a pastor, because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated. Pastors with God's style, which is closeness, compassion, and tenderness. The whole Bible says so. A pastor who does not know how to act as a pastor... I am not very familiar with the details of the United States... But if you're close, tender, and give communion? It’s a hypothesis. The pastor knows what to do at all times. But if you go beyond the pastoral dimension of the Church, you become a politician, and you can see this in all the non-pastoral condemnations of the Church... If you say you can give or not give, this is casuistry... Remember the storm that was whipped up with Amoris laetitia? “Heresy, heresy!” Fortunately, Cardinal Schoenborn, a great theologian, was there, he clarified things... They are children of God and they need our pastoral closeness, then the pastor resolves things as the Spirit indicates to him.
Stefano Maria Paci (Sky Tg 24): I think you will consider this message I am about to give you as a gift. Edith Bruck, the Jewish writer you visited at home, asked me to give it to you, [it is] a long message signed, "Your sister Edith," in which she thanks you for your gestures and appeals against anti-Semitism on this trip…
Pope Francis: Anti-Semitism is making a resurgence, it is fashionable, it is an ugly, ugly thing....
SMP: You spoke about it with the Hungarian authorities. And a resolution came from Strasbourg calling for the recognition of homosexual marriages. What are your thoughts?
Marriage is a sacrament, the Church has no power to change the sacraments as the Lord has instituted them. There are laws that try to help the situations of many people who have a different sexual orientation. It's important, the States have the possibility civilly to support them, to give them security of inheritance, healthcare, etc., not only for homosexuals, but for all people who want to join themselves together. But marriage is marriage. This does not mean condemning them, they are our brothers and sisters, we must accompany them. There are civil laws, for widows for example, who want to associate themselves, with a law, in order to have services... there is the French PACS [civil solidarity pact], but it has nothing to do with marriage as a sacrament, which is between a man and a woman. Sometimes they create confusion. They are all equal brothers and sisters. The Lord is good, He desires the salvation of all, but please, don't make the Church deny her truth. Many people with a homosexual orientation approach penance, they seek counsel from the priest, the Church helps them, but the sacrament of marriage is something else.
Then the Pope added:
I read a beautiful thing about one of you. It said that this journalist was available 24 hours a day for work and that she always lets others go first and she behind, she gives the floor to others and she remains silent. This is what Manuel Beltran says about our Eva Fernandez, thank you!
This is a working translation of a rough Italian transcription.
Updated: September 16 at 12:10.