Commenting on the final result of the Brexit referendum aboard the flight from Rome to Yerevan, Pope Francis said, “It was the will expressed by the people, and this requires great responsibility from all of us to guarantee the good of the people of the United Kingdom and also the good and the coexistence of the entire continent of Europe.”
He made his comment in a brief greeting to the more than 70 journalists travelling with him on the flight to Armenia, including America’s Vatican correspondent, on Friday, June 24. He told them that he had only received news of the final result on the plane, whereas he had seen the not-yet-definitive results in the Rome daily, Il Messagero, before he left Santa Marta, the Vatican residence where he lives.
News of the result surprised most reporters on the plane, and everyone was keen to hear what what Francis’ reaction would be, especially given that while he has strongly praised the original project to unite the peoples of Europe. He has also affirmed on a number of occasions the urgent need for a re-founding of the European Union, which up to this moment has 28 member states and a total population of 508 million people.
Federico Lombardi, S.J., the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, presenting him to the media asked him for his reaction not only to the Brexit vote but also to the good news from Colombia, where the peace accord has been recently signed.
“I am happy for this news [from Colombia] which I received yesterday afternoon. It’s good news after more than 50 years of war and guerilla fighting,” he said. He expressed the hope “that the countries which have worked for that peace [accord] and are its guarantee, will consolidate it so that never again will there be a state of war inside or outside [Colombia].” He went on to express his “good wishes” to Colombia “which now has this peace.”
It is quite likely that Francis will visit Colombia in 2017, as he has already indicated he would do if the peace accord were signed. If he does so, then he will probably also visit Brazil and his native Argentina, and maybe Uruguay.
As is now customary, Francis greeted each of the media personnel aboard the plane and received gifts and messages, including a book in German, “Der Kampfer im Vatikan” (“The Fighter in the Vatican”), written by Andres English, a veteran reporter, who conversed with him in fluent German. Francis spent some months in Germany in the early 1980s, doing research and learned the language then.