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Pope weighs in on Islam, embattled French cardinal, SSPX

May 17, 2016

In a wide-ranging interview with La Croix, Pope Francis discussed various issues facing the Church in France, as well as Islam and migration, the free market and the Christian roots of European society.

“I do not think there is now a fear of Islam, as such, but of Daesh [ISIS] and its war of conquest, driven in part by Islam,” he said. “The idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam, it is true. But it could be interpreted with the same idea of conquest [found at] the end of the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus sends his disciples in all nations.”

“Faced with the current Islamic terrorism, we should question the way in which too Western a model of democracy was exported to countries where there was a strong power, such as in Iraq,” he added. “Or in Libya, [with its] tribal structure. We cannot move forward without considering that culture.”

Pope Francis told La Croix that he is uneasy with discussions about the Christian roots of European society. "I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful," he said. However he made a point of saying that St. John Paul II-- who was the most outspoken proponent of preserving Europe's Christian heritage-- did not fall into that category. The Polish Pontiff, he said, "spoke about it in a tranquil manner."

Referring to France as “the eldest daughter of the Church, but not the most faithful,” Pope Francis said his favorite French saint is St. Thérèse of Lisieux and paid tribute to two writers, Cardinal Henri de Lubac and Father Michel de Certeau, as “Jesuits who were creative.”

Asked about the priest shortage in France, he said:

Korea offers an historical example. That country was evangelized by missionaries from China, from whose work the faith spread there. Then, for two centuries, Korea was evangelized by laymen. It is a land of saints and martyrs today with a strong Church. To evangelize, there need not necessarily be priests.

The Pope was also asked to comment on the priestly abuse scandal. He stated:

For the Church in this area, there can be no statute of limitations: for these abuses, a priest who is called to lead people to God destroys a child. He spreads evil, resentment, pain. As Benedict XVI said, tolerance must be zero.

Responding to a question about Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, who is under fire over his handling of the sexual abuse crisis, the Pope said, “Based on the information I have, I think that, at Lyon, Cardinal Barbarin has taken the necessary measures, he has taken things in hand,” the Pope said. “He is a courageous man, a creative man, a missionary.”

Asked whether the cardinal should resign, the Pope said, “No, that would be a contradiction, an imprudence. We shall see after the conclusion of the trial. But now it would be tantamount to his calling himself culpable.”

Touching on economic matters, the Pontiff said: "A completely free market does not work." He said that markets must be restrained and corrected by "a fulcrum, a third party of a state." This system he described as a "social market economy."

The Pope, asked about the Society of St. Pius X, said, “They love the Church … These are Catholics on the path towards full communion.”

Describing the Society’s superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, as a “man with whom one can dialogue,” the Pope characterized a personal prelature as a “possible solution, but first it is necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them. Vatican Council II has its value.”


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - May. 18, 2016 1:54 AM ET USA

    Triumphalist and vengeful. I wonder what the Pope means. Perhaps he means resentful? It would not be untrue, those who remember resent what has come to be, how could they not?

  • Posted by: loumiamo - May. 17, 2016 9:08 PM ET USA

    "But first." Amazing. Pope Francis said "but first." Truly this is all his critics have been asking him to do, and now he's done it. Let's hope its a phrase he never forgets.

  • Posted by: rjbennett1294 - May. 17, 2016 5:52 PM ET USA

    I very sincerely hope I'm wrong, but I think it's preposterous to think that the pope who all but destroyed the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate because of a widespread attachment to the Traditional Latin Mass will now turn around and regularize the status of the SSPX. It's not unreasonable to think that he's simply dangling that possibility in front of faithful Catholics with the expectation that they'll be "nice" to him in return for the SSPX "perhaps" being brought into union with Rome.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - May. 17, 2016 5:47 PM ET USA

    So, the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam and in Matthew's gospel. What a stupid statement. In Mission of the Redeemer, Saint JP II said that Christianity proposes, it never imposes. How long Oh Lord!!