Catholic World News

Pope speaks of his role in history, his personal security in new wide-ranging interview

June 13, 2014

Pope Francis condemned “the idolatry of money,” defended the record of Pope Pius XII, expressed misgivings about European separatist movements, and dismissed concerns about his own personal safety, in a new interview with the Spanish daily La Vanguardia.

(A complete English-language translation of the wide-ranging Vanguardia interview has been posted on the Catholic News Agency web site.)

The Pope revealed that when he first thought of inviting Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican to pray together, he met with near-universal skepticism. But the idea gradually gained support, he said, and the meeting was a historic success.

When asked about his own place in history, however, the Pontiff shrugged off the question. “I have not thought about it,” he said, “but I like it when someone remembers someone and says: ‘He was a good guy, he did what he could. He wasn’t so bad.’ I’m OK with that.”

The Pope spoke emphatically about the persecution of Christians today, saying that it is “stronger than in the first centuries of the Church.” He said that he did not often speak about persecution because he does not want to give offense, but he remarked that “in some places it is prohibited to have a Bible or teach the catechism or wear a cross.”

Regarding the world’s economic system, the Pope insisted that a healthy system should be centered on the needs of men and women. “But we have put money at the center, the god of money,” he lamented. “We have fallen into a sin of idolatry, the idolatry of money.”

Pope Francis said that it “gives me a rash” when he hears criticism of Pope Pius XII for his alleged indifference to the Holocaust. He said that historical records will show that the wartime Pontiff took great strides to protect Jews from the Nazi genocide, and expressed confidence that when Vatican archives are opened up, they will show the extent of Pope Pius’ efforts.

Commenting on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Pope spoke of the possibility that his predecessor would be one of many eventual “popes emeritus.” He pointed out that until recently there were no emeritus bishops, but now there are many all around the world. Pope Francis also recalled that he had submitted his own resignation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and arranged for a place in a home for retired priests, before he was elected Roman Pontiff.

Turning to the question of movements of autonomy in Europe, the Pope alluded to the savagery unleashed by the break-up of Yugoslavia. He suggested that in places like Scotland and Catalonia, it would be wise to take separatist ambitions “with a lot of grains of salt.”

The Pope made light of concerns about his personal safety, dismissing concerns that he has refused to travel in a bulletproof Popemobile. “I know what could happen, but it is in God’s hands,” he said. He said that he could not tolerate travel in an armored “sardine can,” and laughed that “at my age I don’t have much to lose.”

Finally, the Pope—known as an avid soccer fan—said that he is interested in the World Cup tournament, but would try not to be a partisan fan. “I have promised to be neutral,” he said.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jun. 14, 2014 4:57 PM ET USA

    To the Pope's credit he DID NOT initiate this talk of "his own personal security" nor "his role in history...," rather, he responded to a certain lay craving for information which could have proven a temptation to him and could be argued things we (the laity) really do not need to know.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jun. 14, 2014 7:56 AM ET USA

    “The persecuted Christians are a concern that touches me very deeply as a pastor. I know a lot about persecutions but it doesn't seem prudent to talk about them here so I don't offend anyone. But in some places it is prohibited to have a Bible or teach the catechism or wear a cross…" I am happy to see these words of the pope. Of course, he dares not name names, for he knows what would happen if he did. But one thing is beyond question: he knows full well he is NOT describing Israel here.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Jun. 13, 2014 6:53 PM ET USA

    European separatist movements are the result of people feeling like they lack a voice in the way their government is doing business. Scotland wants access to the money being made in the North Sea oil fields. All around the world countries are being stripped of their mineral wealth by larger, more powerful organizations. This is brought on by the World Bank and others. I am sure that some comments should be given, by the Pope, to the commandment- thou shalt not steal. Holy Father wake up!

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Jun. 13, 2014 6:40 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis lamented the idolatry of money. What a pity he did not lament the idolatry of usury. Since usury is the problem that is causing the money of the poor to evaporate it should have been his focus. Unfortunately, his view of money is to have the Vatican bank follow best practices of other world banks. I think this is a serious shame and I pray that he will point to usury in any further comments.