“El Pastor”, a book by journalists Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin that was recently published in Argentina, is the result of several interviews with the Pope on the most important and urgent issues of the Church, from politics to economics, from reforms in the Roman Curia to threats to the ‘common home’.
By Benedetta Capelli
From ‘El jesuita’ (the Jesuit), written in 2010, to ‘El Pastor’ (the pastor), a book which has just been published in Argentina: Francesca Ambrogetti, former head of Ansa in Argentina; and Sergio Rubin, of the daily paper El Clarin, return to the figure of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. In their first book they gathered together the reflections of the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, whereas in this second, the approach concerns the magisterium of Pope Francis, as well as the challenges faced in the ten years of his pontificate and future prospects such as “revitalizing the proclamation of the Gospel, reducing Vatican centralism, outlawing paedophilia… and fighting economic corruption”. A programme of governance, he emphasises, that aims “to execute what was declared by the cardinals in the general congregations on the eve of the conclave”.
The book consists of nineteen chapters and a prologue signed by Pope Francis, in which he writes, “I must acknowledge one virtue in Francesca and Sergio: their perseverance”. The journalists offer an analysis of the magisterium through periodic interviews conducted over 10 years. Many topics are covered: from migration to the defence of life, the impact of the reforms of the Roman Curia, and the abuse of minors. On this last point, Pope Francis emphasises that his pontificate “will largely be evaluated by how he has dealt with this scourge”.
Then, he speaks about marriage and the family, the threatened “common home”, the “female genius”, and “careerism” in the Church. Concerning homosexuality, Pope Francis emphasises that to “those who have suffered rejection by the Church, I would like to make it known that they are people in the Church”.
The Gospel to convert a mentality
Politics is one of the central themes of the book. “Yes, I engage in politics”, the Pope replies, ‘because everyone must engage in politics. And what is politics? A way of life for the polis, for the city. What I do not do, nor should the Church do, is party politics. But the Gospel has a political dimension, which is to transform the social, even religious, mentality of people” so that it is directed to the common good.
Another important theme concerns the economy. Pope Francis reiterates that the beacon to follow is the Social Doctrine of the Church, that he is not condemning capitalism, but that it is necessary, as John Paul II indicated, to follow a “social market economy”. Today, he adds, finance prevails and wealth is less and less participatory. “What we can all agree is that the concentration of wealth and inequality have increased. And that there are many people starving.”
Clarity in Vatican finances
Pope Francis then dwells on the Vatican’s financial affairs, defending the good faith of the “vast majority” of the Church’s members. “But it cannot be denied,” he says, “that some clerics and many, I would say, false lay ‘friends’ of the Church have contributed to misappropriating the movable and immovable patrimony, not of the Vatican, but of the faithful”.
Referring then to the affair of the London property, he emphasised that it was precisely in the Vatican that “the suspicious purchase” was detected. “I rejoiced,” says the Pope, “because it means that today the Vatican administration has the resources to shed light on the ugly things that happen inside”.
With regard to State-Church relations, he says he defends “the secularity of the State, not the secularism that, for example, does not allow religious images in public spaces”.
Ready to go to China
Concerning Argentina, the Pope emphasises that “accusations of Peronism are a commonplace” and calls on trade unions to defend the dignity of workers and their rights.
He also maintains that his intention to travel to the country “remains valid”. ‘It is unfair to say I don’t want to go’.
Regarding the agreement between the Holy See and China, the Pope says he is aware of the problems and sufferings, showing himself willing to go to the Asian country “tomorrow, if it were possible!”
The Church is not a ‘mail-order’ mother
The Pope finally confesses to having had crises of faith, which were overcome with God’s help. “In any case,” he adds, “a faith that does not put us in crisis is a faith in crisis. Just as a faith that does not make us grow is a faith that must grow”.
Concerning the Church of the future, he explains that closeness is the key to everything. The Church is a mother, and I do not know any mothers ‘by correspondence’. The mother gives affection, touches, kisses, loves. When the Church is not close to her children because she is busy with a thousand things or communicates with them through documents, it is as if a mother communicates with her children by letter”.