Pope Francis on his Role as Pope in the Church of Today and Tomorrow

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
20 Sep 2013

Pope Francis spoke on a number of issues during the interview

In a long interview Pope Francis has spoken to the editor of an Italian Jesuit journal on a wide-ranging number of topics from his own personal vocation to reforms but it is just a couple of paragraphs in the 12,000-word essay which has resulted in headlines around the world.

Pope Francis spoke about his own call to the priesthood and in particular the Society of Jesus, how he understands the role of service to the universal church, the need to take time to lay the foundations for real, effective change and the need to consult.

Pope Francis said he was keen not to have token consultations but real consultations.

The Holy Father also spoke of his affection and immense respect for his predecessor, Pope Benedict and he expressed that what the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm hearts of the faithful.

"It needs nearness, proximity," he said. "I see the church as a field hospital after battle".

But what set the media alight were the Pope's comments on homosexuality and abortion.

He said the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods and that "when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in context".

The Pope said; "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."

Many news outlets took this to mean major and dramatic reforms were on the horizon for the church. Not so.  Many social issues need to be discussed openly and compassionately but they are not the only issues  in the Catholic dialogue.

The Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell said moral issues are important but not central issues of faith.

Cardinal Pell said: "Two paragraphs in Pope Francis' important 12,000 word interview have been the focus of particular attention. He also emphasised the importance of not taking issues out of context.

The Holy Father is describing how many priests and bishops, including myself, carry out their ministry as teachers and healers.

Questions like abortion and homosexual practice involve very important human and scriptural values, and they need to be articulated clearly, sensitively and with a compassionate understanding of our weaknesses and struggles.

Essential Christian moral teachings need to be defended and explained when they are attacked. But we do not seek to harangue people about them every day. After Jesus saved the adulterous woman from stoning, he gently urged her to sin no more (Jn:8).

Important moral issues as they are, they are not central issues of faith, like the resurrection of Jesus or the love and mercy of God.

Pope Francis

The Holy Father is calling our attention to the way truth is something lived in a relationship, first and foremost in a relationship with God.

Faith is foundational. With this great truth to rely on, God calls us to live a better life, helps us in our struggles, and through his forgiveness enables us to start again when we fail.

This is the message that we work to bring to people every day. I hope the Holy Father's interview helps to make this clearer to everyone."

The Holy Father also spoke of the role of women in the church. He said the woman is essential in the church saying Mary, a woman, is more important than bishops. "I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further thye role of women in the church.

We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of woman." He said the feminine genius is needed whenever the church makes important decisions.

Conducted over three sessions Pope Francis also spoke of his favourite author, Dostoevsky, painter, Caravaggio and composer, Mozart.

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