“This is how, I, as Pope, welcome homosexual people and transsexuals”
Journalists interview Pope Francis on the flight from Baku to Rome.
“As Pope I continue to accompany people who have a homosexual inclination and who practice homosexuality,” Francis said in response to journalists’ questions on the flight from Baku to Rome, when he was asked about the tough words on gender he pronounced in Georgia on Saturday.
You spoke about gender destroying marriage. What would you say to those who are suffering and feel that their sexual identity does not correspond to their biological one?
“Throughout my life as a priest, bishop and even as Pope, I have accompanied people with a homosexual inclination and who practice homosexuality. I have accompanied them and brought them closer to the Lord, some are not able… But people must be accompanied as Jesus accompanies them. When someone with this condition comes before Jesus, he will certainly not say: ‘Go away, for you are homosexual!’ What I am referring to is that wickedness shown today, by indoctrinating people with the gender theory. A French father told me that he was chatting with his children at table once and asked his 10-year-old son: ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘A girl!’ the boy said. The father realised that school text books were teaching the gender and this goes against what is natural. For a person to have this inclination, or this option or those who change sex, is one thing. It is quite another to teach according to this line at school, in order to change people’s mentality. This is what I call “ideological colonisations”. Last year I received a letter from a Spanish male who was telling me about his story as a child and as a teen. It was a female child, a girl who had suffered a great deal. She felt like a boy but was physically a girl. She had told her mother about it, saying she wanted to have a sex change. The mother asked her not to have it done while she was still alive. She was elderly and died soon. The girl had the surgery and he now works at a ministry in Spain. He went to see the bishop and the bishop gave him a great deal of guidance. He was a good bishop, he “wasted” time accompanying this man. The man later married, changed his civil identity and he – who was a she but is now a he – wrote to tell me he would take comfort in coming to see me. I received them. He told me that in the neighbourhood where he lived there was an elderly priest, the old parish priest and the new one. When the new parish priest saw him, he would shout to him from the sidewalk: ‘You will go to hell!’ When he came across the old man, he would say to him: ‘How long has it been since your last confession? Come, come…’ Life is life and things must be taken as they come. Sin is sin. Inclinations or hormonal imbalances cause many problems and we need to be careful when claiming all cases are the same: we need to embrace and study each case, accompany the person, discern and integrate them. This is what Jesus would do today. But please don’t go and say now: the Pope is going to sanctify transsexuals! I can just picture the front pages of the newspapers…It is a human problem, a moral problem. And we need to resolve it as best we can, always with God’s mercy and with truth but always with an open heart.”
Yesterday, you spoke of a world war against marriage, using strong words against divorce. But in recent months the Church discussed welcoming the divorced.
“Amoris Laetitia talks about how these cases are to be handled, it talks about wounded families and mercy comes into it. Human weaknesses exist, sins exist but it is never weakness or sin that has the last word, it is mercy! Marriages have problems and how are these resolved? In four ways: welcoming wounded families, accompanying, discerning each case and integrating. This means co-operating with this wonderful recreation the Lord made with redemption. The Amoris Laetitia must be read in its entirety, from start to finish. There is sin and separation but there is also a therapy, mercy, redemption.”
When are you going to create new cardinals and what criteria do you follow for this kind of nomination?
“The criteria will be the same as in the two previous consistories. I will nominate individuals from a number of different countries as the Church is present all over the world. I am still deliberating on who to nominate. The list is very long but there are just 13 posts. I am keen for the College of Cardinals to reflect the universal nature of the Church, not just the European core. Everywhere across the five continents. It could be at the end of the year but there’s the problem of the Holy Year, or at the start of next year.”
When are you going to visit the victims of the Italian earthquake and what will be the nature of the visit?
“Three dates were suggested to me, two of them I can’t quite remember, the third is the first Sunday of Advent. I will decide on the date once I’m back. I plan to pay a private visit by myself, as a priest, a bishop and as Pope. By myself. And I want to be close to the people but I don’t quite know how yet.”
What international visits will you be embarking on in 2017?
“I will visit Portugal and I will only go to Fatima. I will almost certainly visit India and Bangladesh. I’m not sure about Africa, it depends on the political situation and the wars going on. As far as Colombia goes, I said that if the peace process works, when everything is secure, if the referendum wins, when everything is safe and set in stone, I may go…”
What obstacles are preventing the Pope from visiting China?
“A good relationship needs to be established between the Vatican and China and this takes time. Things that happen slowly are ok, those done in a haste are not. I esteem the people of China. There was a conference at the Academy of sciences the other day and there was a delegation from China present: the Chinese president sent me a gift. I would like to visit but not yet I don’t think…”
What needs to happen in order to achieve permanent peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
“Sincere, face-to-face dialogue is the only way, without any under-the-counter deals. A sincere negotiation. If this is not possible then they need to have the courage to go before an international court like the Hague and submit themselves to international judgement. The other path is that of war. But with war you lose everything!”
There are various candidates for the next Nobel Peace Prize. Who do you hope to see win?
“There are so many people who live to wage war, sell arms and kill. But there are also many people who work for peace. I’m not sure who I’d choose, it’s a tough one. I hope that on an international level there will be a mention, a declaration on children, the disabled, minors and civilians who died because of bombs dropped as a result of war. Believe that is a sin committed against Jesus Christ, because the flesh of those children, of those sick people, those defenceless elderly people, is the flesh of Jesus Christ. Humanity should say something about the victims of war.”
Who should a Catholic choose between US presidential candidates? One is miles away from Church teaching on many fronts, while the other has issued certain statements regarding immigrants and minorities…
“This is a difficult question you are asking me because according to you there are problems with both of them. I never utter a word during election campaigns. The people are sovereign and all I will say is: really read up on their programmes, pray and choose consciously! Moving away from this specific case, when it happens that in any given country there are two, three, four candidates who are not satisfactory to all, it means that that country’s political life is too politicised but does not have much of a political culture. There are countries – I am thinking of Latin America here – that are too politicised but have no political culture, they lack clear thought on the basics, on proposals.”
Is testimony more important for history than the testament of a Pope? I ask you this because John Paul II had asked for his personal notes to be burnt but they ended up being published in a book.
“You’re talking about a Pope who instructs for his letters to be burnt. But every man and every woman has the right to do this. They have the right to do this before they die. Whoever fails to respect that wish is at fault, I don’t know, I’m not familiar with this case. So many people’s wills have not been respected.”
In light of your meeting with the Patriarch, do you see any chances for future cooperation and dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches?
“Two things surprised me in Georgia. One of these things was Georgia. I had never imagined so much culture, so much faith, so much Christianity. A population of believers and an ancient Christian tradition, a people who have many martyrs. I discovered something I didn’t know about: the breadth of Georgian faith. The second surprise was the patriarch: he is a man of God; this man moved me. On the occasions that I met him, I felt feeling moved, I met a man of God. Regarding the things that unite and separate us, I want to say this: let us not start arguing about doctrinal issues, let us leave this to the theologians, they are better at that than us, they discuss and they’re capable, they’re good, on both sides. What do we need to do as a people? Pray for one another. And do things together: there are the poor, let’s work for the poor; if there’s a problem, we work together; there’s the migration issue, let’s work together for others. We can do it. This is the path of ecumenism and it can be done if we walk and pray together. But Georgia is marvellous, I was surprised: it’s Christian to the bone.”