Pope Francis speaks candidly to the church in a new book of interviews
“I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people, that knows how to dialogue. It is the church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples that are walking discouraged. For me the interview is part of this conversation of the church with the men and women of today.”
That is what Pope Francis stated in his introduction to a new book, released in Italy this week, that contains several interviews he has given since becoming pope in March 2013. Now ask me your questions (in Italian: Adesso fate le vostre domande) is the title of the 235-page book that will be presented in Rome on Oct. 21 by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., the editor of this volume and editor in chief of the influential Jesuit biweekly review, La Civiltà Cattolica. The title comes from what Pope Francis always says to journalists at the beginning of press conferences on the plane returning from visits to foreign countries.
Pope Francis: “I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people.”
The book, currently only in Italian, contains eight interviews. Six of them are with Jesuits, including Father Spadaro’s groundbreaking interview in the summer of 2013 and Father Spadaro’s second one for the 1,000-page publication of the homilies and talks that he gave as archbishop in Buenos Aires. The four other interviews with Jesuits are: an unpublished conversation with the Jesuit communities in the Philippines (January 2015); in Poland during World Youth Day (2016); and another with the Swedish Jesuit, Father Ulf Jonsson, editor of a Jesuit cultural review in that country, about Luther and the Lutherans.
The latter (October 2016) was given on the eve of the pope’s visit to Sweden for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Then there is the pope’s conversation at the General Congregation of the Jesuits after the election of the new superior general, Father Arturo Sosa (October 2016).
Two of the interviews are with the Union of Superiors Generals of men’s religious orders in Rome. These are spontaneous, sincere conversations, with questions and answers, that were never intended to be made public.
Pope Francis confessed that while he has “chutzpah,” “I am also timid.”
In his introduction to this volume of interviews, Pope Francis confessed that while he has “chutzpah” (“faccia” tosta, in Italian), “I am also timid.” He recalled that as archbishop of Buenos Aires he was at first “a little frightened” of journalists because he feared they could give “bad interpretations” to what he said.
His attitude changed, however, after the good experience with Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin for the interview book El Jesuita and similar experiences in interviews with Marcelo Figueroa and Rabbi Abraham Skorka. He now feels more relaxed with reporters, and “while I must not lose prudence, I must also not lose trust [in people].” Nevertheless, he confided, “I always pray to the Holy Spirit before hearing the questions and responding.”
Pope Francis said he has come to see interviews as an integral part of his “pastoral ministry.” Interviews “always have a pastoral value for me, in one way or another. It’s a way of communication of my ministry. I link these conversations in the interviews with the daily form of the homilies at [the Mass] at Santa Marta,” he added. He said he likes especially, to give interviews to small, popular papers or magazines because in those “I hear the concerns and the questions of the common people.”
Pope Francis said he has come to see interviews as an integral part of his “pastoral ministry.”
Father Spadaro told America on Oct. 17 that “Pope Francis doesn’t want to know the questions in advance; he wants the interview to be a real conversation, not a prepared Q&A session; he wants it to be a real dialogue. He wants to look the interviewer in the eye, and he’s very interested in hearing the questions people ask.”
Several of the interviews in this volume were originally meant to remain as private conversations. “They were very free, spontaneous encounters in which the pope spoke frankly and from the heart,” Father Spadaro told America. He was present at all of them and originally recorded them for his own personal use. But on re-listening to them, he said he noted that “a vision of church and a vision of the world” kept reappearing in each of them, and he felt it would be good to gather them all together and make this “rich vision” available to a wider audience.
He requested the pope’s authorization to publish them in one volume, and after re-reading them carefully and making some “minor corrections,” Pope Francis gave his consent and agreed to write the introduction.