“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” said Pope Francis in a press conference on his flight back from Brazil answering questions.
The quote was the end of an answer to a question on Msgr. Ricca, a prelate of the IOR, about whom an Italian magazine published compromising information relating to his personal life, and on the so-called “gay lobby” within the Vatican. “On Msgr. Ricca”, he said, “an investigatio previa (an investigation prior to being appointed as a prelate) was carried out and nothing emerged. But I would like to add one more thing: I see that very often in the Church, there is a tendency to seek out sins committed in youth, and make them public. I am not speaking about crimes: the abuse of minors is a crime. But if a layperson, or a priest, or a nun, has sinned, the Lord forgives and forgets. And this is important – the Lord forgets. We do not have the right to not forget. … St. Peter committed one of the most serious sins, apostasy, and yet they made him Pope. Much is written about the gay lobby … but I haven’t found gay identity cards in the Vatican, although they say they exist. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must distinguish the fact of being gay from that of forming part of a lobby, as not all lobbies are good. That is the problem. But if a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”
On the return flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome, Pope Francis spoke for around an hour and half with the journalists accompanying him on his journey. The questions and answers were all impromptu, and the Pope answered all the questioned posed, on matters ranging from his personal security to his relationship with the Roman Curia, his trip to Brazil, his collaboration with Benedict XVI and the situation of divorced and remarried persons, reports the Vatican Information Service (VIS)
He said he was happy with his first trip abroad as Pope, commenting that it had brought to the fore “the goodness and the suffering of the Brazilian people … the Brazilian people are warm-hearted, they are an amiable people … who even in suffering always find a way to seek out the best from all sides. And this is a good thing: they are cheerful people who have suffered much … This trip has been very good; spiritually, it has done me good … meeting people always does good, as in doing so we receive many good things from others”, VIS reports.
With regard to matters of security, he commented that there had been no incident during his visit to Rio de Janeiro, and that everything had been spontaneous. “With less security, I was able to stay with the people, to embrace them, greet them, without armoured cars … it is the security of trusting in people … yes, there’s always the danger of encountering a madman, but then there is always the Lord who protects us, isn’t there? It is also madness to separate a bishop from his people, and I prefer this madness”.
He also reiterated that he preferred to continue to reside at the Santa Marta guesthouse, explaining that, “I cannot live alone, or with a small group. I need to be among people, to meet and speak with people. … Everyone should live as the Lord intends them to live. But austerity – a general austerity – I think it is necessary for all those who work in the service of the Church”.
He also revealed the contents of the black bag he carried during his trip to Brazil. “There wasn’t the key to the atomic bomb! There is a razor, a breviary, my diary, a book to read – I brought one on St. Therese of Lisieux, to whom I am devoted … I always take this bag when I travel. It’s normal. We should be normal!”
In response to a question on the commissions he has instituted for the reform of the IOR (Institute for Religious Works) and the case of Msgr. Scarano, director of the accounting analysis service of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) arrested by the Italian authorities in the context of a corruption and fraud investigation, he stated that the commissions have been established to reform and rectify the IOR and that some advised him it should be an ethical bank, a support fund or that it should even be shut down. “I trust in the work of the commission members”, he commented. “Transparency and honesty must be the criteria inspiring this entity. He expressed his sadness regarding the case of Msgr. Scarano, imprisoned “and not because he resembled Blessed Imelda … I am pained by these events because they cause scandal … but in the Curia there are also saintly people … and even if there are some who are not, they are those who make the most noise: everyone knows that one falling tree makes more noise than a growing forest”.
Similarly the Pope did not elude the theme of sacraments for the divorced and remarried. “I think this is the moment for mercy. The divorced may have access to the sacraments. The problem regards those who are in a second marriage … who cannot receive communion. But, in parenthesis, the Orthodox have a different praxis. They follow the theology of economy, and they give a second chance: they allow that. But I think that this problem – and here I close the parenthesis – should be studied within the framework of matrimonial pastoral care. One of the themes that the Council of Cardinals will consider in the meeting in … October is how to proceed in relation to matrimonial pastoral care. … A few days ago I met with the secretary of the Synod of Bishops, for the theme of the next Synod and, speaking … we saw this anthropological theme: how faith helps in the planning of the person, in the family, and enters into the pastoral of matrimony. … We are on the way towards a deeper matrimonial pastoral care … This is a problem for many people”.
With regard to the participation of women in the Church, Francis said that John Paul II had closed the door to the question of ordination, but emphasised that “Mary was more important than the Apostles, bishops, and so women in the Church are also more important than bishops and priests … there is a great need for theology to better explore the role of women in the Church”.
Speaking of the presence of Benedict XVI in the Vatican, he affirmed, “It is like having a grandfather at home, but a wise grandfather. When in a family the grandfather is at home, he is venerated, loved and listened to. He is a prudent man who does not intrude. I have said to him many times, ‘Your Holiness, receive visitors, carry on with your life, come with us … He came to the inauguration and blessing of the statue of St. Michael … Yes, it is like having a grandfather at home, my father. If I had any difficulty or did not understand something, I would telephone him to ask, ‘Tell me, can I do this, or that?’ And when I went to speak to him about the serious problem of Vatileaks, he explained it all to me with great simplicity”.