Pope Francis landed in Rome today after a four day papal visit to Slovakia and Hungary. On his return flight, he held a press-conference running the gamut of salient questions pressing today’s society.

Abortion

“The problem of abortion. Abortion is more than a problem, it’s murder, whoever has an abortion kills, no half 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 hard on this issue, because if it accepts this it would be like accepting 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 drop in births in the society of that country.”

Vaccination

“This is important, no? It is a bit strange, no? Because humanity has a friendly history with vaccines: we as children, even the measles, the other one for polio… all children were vaccinated and no said “mu”, no? This one has come. Perhaps it has come because of the virulence and the uncertainty, not only regarding the pandemic, but also due to the diversity of vaccines, and also the reputation of some vaccines that they are not suitable or that they are little more than distilled water. This has created fear in people. Then, there are others who say they are dangerous because  the vaccine has the virus inside, and a lot of argumentation that have created this division. Even in the College of Cardinals, there are some anti-vaxxers, and one of them, poor man, was hospitalized with the virus. But, life is ironic. Yes, I can’t explain it well: some say it’s because of the difference of where the vaccines come from that there has not been sufficient testing and they are afraid. But thins need to be clear, clarify and speak sincerely about this. In the Vatican, everyone has been vaccinated except a small group under study to know how to help them.”

Same-Sex Marriage

“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 an assurance regarding inheritance, healthcare, etc., not only for homosexuals, but for all people who want to associate themselves. 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 to have services… there is the French PACS [civil solidarity pact], but 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 its 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.”

Communion to Politicians

“I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone, to anyone. I don’t know if anyone in that condition came, but I never, never refused the Eucharist. As a priest, that is. Never. I have never been aware of having a person like the one you describe in front of me, that is true. Simply, the only time I ever had a bit…an interesting thing, was when I went to celebrate Mass in a rest home and we were in the living room, and I said: “Raise your hand if you want to receive communion”. Everyone, the old men, the old women, everyone wanted communion, and when I gave communion to one woman, she took me by the hand and said to me: “Thank you, Father, thank you: I’m Jewish”. I said: “No, the one that I gave to you is Jewish, too…” The only strange thing, but the woman received communion first, she said it after.

No. Communion is not a prize for the perfect, no? Let’s think of Port Royal (des Champs), of the issue with Angélique Arnaud, Jansenism: those who are perfect can receive communion. Communion is a gift, a present; the presence of Jesus in his Church and in the community. This is the theology. Then, those who are not in the community cannot receive communion, like this Jewish woman, but the Lord wanted to reward her without my knowledge. Why? Because they are out of the community – ex-comunitate – excommunicated they are called. It is a harsh term, but it means that they are not in the community, either because they do not belong to it, they are not baptised or have drifted away for some reason.

Now we go to that person who is not in the community, cannot take communion. And this is not a punishment, the person is outside. But the problem is not theological, it is pastoral, how we bishops deal with 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 politically. When the Church defends a principle, 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, there was Cardinal Schoenborn, a great theologian, who clarified things… They are children of God and they need our pastoral closeness, then the pastor resolves things as the Spirit indicates to him.”

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