Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

9/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle

Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be, more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. (Pope Francis)

Pope Francis embracing Fr. Antonio Spadaro to whom he gave the interview

Pope Francis embracing Fr. Antonio Spadaro to whom he gave the interview

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Pope Francis, interview, Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, Jesuit, Catholic Church, moral issues, Deacon Keith Fournier


VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) -  Fr. Antonio Spadaro is one of a growing number of people who have received unexpected phone calls from Pope Francis. He was not in the office so the Jesuit Pope called his cell phone. He told the Jesuit priest that he wanted to give him an exclusive interview.

Civiltŕ Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit Journal edited by Fr. Spadaro, released the 10,000 word interview on September 19, 2013 in sixteen Jesuit Journals and magazines. It is appropriately entitled "A Big Heart Open to God".

The entire interview is available in English (in the United Kingdom) in the Jesuit publication entitled Thinking Faith They also offer it here in PDF format. In the United States, the interview is available in the Jesuit magazine America. However, for reasons I do not understand, they have restricted the use of their translation.

Like most things Francis, this wide ranging, honest and open interview has the Media confounded and abuzz with reporting which ranges from surprise to sincere confusion and some misguided analysis. However, the fact that so many members of the media are truly rife with interest in the message of this Pope and the Church is truly exciting.

I believe he knew this would happen and that is why he gave the interview. He is a missionary Pope with a big pastoral heart. Though there are misinterpretations in the media fueled by political and cultural agendas - just as there were when he gave his interview on the plane coming back from World Youth Day - the numbers are beginning to decline. 

The interview must be read in its entirety in order to understand the profundity and simplicity of its message- as well as to experience the soul of the man who gave these responses to some excellent questions posed by Fr Antonio Spadaro.

I invite all readers of Catholic Online to take the time and read this interview for yourself right here. Please, as a Catholic or other Christian reading this article, do not accept the media reports as accurate. Read the interview for yourself!

These responses were given by a very human Pope named Francis. They are warm, lively, honest, pastoral, compassionate, candid, evangelical, big hearted, and faithful to the teaching of the Church and the unbroken, ancient but ever new, Catholic Christian faith.  

What the interview confirms to me is that Pope Francis is an evangelical Catholic in the best sense of the adjective, wanting all men and women to come to know Jesus, the Evangel, and to find a home in His Body, the Church. He calls the whole Church, and her Bishops, priests, and deacons, to a proclamation of the Gospel in word and deed, in what he refers to as having a missionary style. How appropriate, given the fact that we are living in a new missionary age.  

This Pope has a big heart open to God and open to all of those whom God loves. That means all men and women, at every stage of their journey through life. He is encouraging all of us who bear the name Christian to open our own hearts to God - and to all men and women in the love of God - realizing the magnitude of God's mercy. God always allows us to begin and begin again.  

When the interview was released, Fr. Spadaro told the Press it was "one of the most beautiful spiritual experiences of my life." After reading it several times, I can understand why.

For any readers who may worry, perhaps because they have read or heard some media reports which suggested wrongly that Pope Francis is veering away from the truth as taught by the Catholic Faith on major matters of profound moral importance, nothing could be further from the truth.

He is, in his own words, a "son of the Church." He cannot change her teaching and he does not seek to do so. He fully embraces this teaching precisely because he knows it is true. It also informs his compassionate, pastoral outreach to a world in need of hearing its liberating and saving message. As for its practices, some of its disciplines and applications, that may be a different matter.

In a response touching upon this topic of the major moral issues so often discussed when the Catholic Church is discussed, he told Father Spadaro that "when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

I have decided that the best thing I can do as Editor in Chief of Catholic Online is to expose our readers to this extraordinary interview in order to pique their interest so that they will go here and read it completely, from beginning to end.  

In the excerpts which I offer below I begin about half way through the interview. Pope Francis is speaking of the holiness of ordinary folks. He offers some of his own life experience and insights.

Following that, I offer only  two of the questions posed by  Fr Antonio Spadaro and the response of this Pope who is so appropriately named after the little poor man of Assisi named Francis.

*****

EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW WITH POPE FRANCIS
A Big Heart Open to God

I see the holiness," the pope continues, "in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity.

"I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius.
 
This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.

"This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.

You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: 'Here's an unfruitful bachelor' or 'Here's a spinster.' They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life. Instead, for example, when I read the life of the Salesian missionaries who went to Patagonia, I read a story of the fullness of life, of fruitfulness.

"Another example from recent days that I saw got the attention of newspapers: the phone call I made to a young man who wrote me a letter. I called him because that letter was so beautiful, so simple. For me this was an act of generativity. I realized that he was a young man who is growing, that he saw in me a father, and that the letter tells something of his life to that father. The father cannot say, 'I do not care.' This type of fruitfulness is so good for me."

Pope Benedict XVI, in announcing his resignation, said that the contemporary world is subject to rapid change and is grappling with issues of great importance for the life of faith. Dealing with these issues requires strength of body and soul, Pope Benedict said. I ask Pope Francis: "What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?"

Pope Francis begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor
:

"Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God.

"I see clearly," the pope continues, "that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.

"The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person.

The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, 'This is not a sin' or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

"How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherd. The church's ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondaryŹ - that is, they come afterward.

The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people's night, into the darkness, but without getting lost.

The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

"Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage."

I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?

"We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner," the pope says, "preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are 'socially wounded' because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this.

During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

"A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person.

Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

"This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better.

I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

"The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.

The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

"I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation.

Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence.

But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing.

The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor's proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ."

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Europe

Anguished refugee family throws themselves on train tacks after being denied entry into Germany Watch

Image of Photos show a father trying to protect his wife and child by lying down on the tracks in protest. Hungarian officers dragged them away for their own safety.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Western Europe is in its worst throes of a refugee crisis since the 1990s with the sudden influx of North African and Middle Eastern refugees struggling for a better life in the west. One such refugee family, in a series of dramatic photos, threw themselves on ... continue reading


Heartbreaking images of drowned Syrian toddler captures the Middle East's refugee crisis Watch

Image of The body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi is found lying on the shore of a Turkish resort town.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Images depicting the body of a drowned toddler lying on the shores of Bodrum have gone viral, showcasing the desperation of fleeing migrants from Syria and the middle East. LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (Catholic Online) - Two boats carrying fleeing immigrants capsized on ... continue reading


ISIS fighters caught crossing border disguised as refugees Watch

Image of Europe is experiencing a massive amount of migrant intake.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Five ISIS fighters were seized as they attempted to cross the Bulgarian-Macedonian border with gruesome videos and ISIS propaganda on their phones. The terrorist suspects assumed the identities of refugees. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - It was reported ... continue reading


Shocking water misters at entrance of Auschwitz museum remind guests of gas chamber Watch

Image of Misters at the Auschwitz Museum in Polond too closely resemble gas chambers.

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Water mists were placed at the entrance of the Auschwitz Museum in Poland in an effort to beat the heat but Israeli visitors were far from "cool." MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The mist raining down on guests reminded them of gas chambers, bringing back ... continue reading


Not London, New York or Paris: Luanda, Angola the most expensive city on Earth for... Watch

Image of According to Mercer's annual Cost of Living survey, places Luanda as by far the priciest city for foreign workers to live.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's nowhere as well known as New York, Paris or London - but Luanda, Angola remains the most expensive city by far for expatriates to live in. Luanda ranked as the most expensive city to live in for the third time in a row. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Discovery of purported 'Nazi gold train' taken seriously in Poland Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The declarations from a German man and Polish man of discovery a long-lost Nazi train filled with gold and other treasures is being taken seriously by Poland's deputy culture minister. He says he is "convinced" the train exists. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Abandoned truck holds over 20 dead migrants in Austria Watch

Image of Truck found abandoned carrying the bodies of more than 20 dead migrants

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A police manhunt takes place after the discovery of an abandoned truck containing the bodies of migrants attempting to cross Austria's border. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Austrian police report up to 50 migrants suffocated in the back of a refrigerated food ... continue reading


Vatican involvement in Ashley Madison Web site leak disproven Watch

Image of At first glance, the claim seems questionable - why would top Church officials sworn to celibacy sign up for a Web site for married people, and no less one that promotes adultery?

By CNA/EWTN News

Early this week, a leak of personal data from millions of users of Ashley Madison, a Web site designed to arrange extramarital affairs, wreaked havoc on and off the internet. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - At least two suicides have been reported in conjunction ... continue reading


Four-star General reveals horrendous WWII scenes in never-before-seen photographs (PHOTOS) Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Four-star General Charles Day Palmer detailed the fights in Western Front during World War II by taking snapshots of the bombed-out cities and lifeless bodies. He kept personal photos of the battlefields in Germany and France and is now releasing them to the public for ... continue reading


Brainwashed teenage girl taken away from radical jihadi parents Watch

Image of Judge Anthony Hayden, pictured, today compared the radicalization of the 16-year-old girl, known as B as similar to that as child sex abuse.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A 16-year-old girl in East London has been removed from her home after a judge ruled that she was being radicalized by her parents with Islamic State propaganda. The straight-A student, known only as "B" was stopped last year when she tried to fly to Syria to ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Colossians 1:9-14
9 That is why, ever since the day he told us, we have ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:2-3, 3-4, 5-6
2 Yahweh has made known his saving power, revealed ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:1-11
1 Now it happened that he was standing one day by the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 3rd, 2015 Image

Pope Saint Gregory the Great
September 3: St. Gregory, born at Rome about the year 540, was the son of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter