Pope Francis is not afraid of speaking freely, with his sermons and writings — and a fair share of press interviews — stirring up the Catholic establishment since his election in 2013. Yet a new book based on transcripts of 12 separate conversations with a French sociologist is particularly rich in revelations.
The 432-page Politique et société, du pape François - Rencontres avec Dominique Wolton ("Pope Francis: Politics and Society. Conversations with Dominique Walton") will be out on Wednesday.
The Paris-based daily Le Figaro has published exclusive extracts, in which the Pope ponders the purpose of religion and offers some fascinating details of his own life and views, from his going to see a Jewish psychoanalyst to his relationships with women, his take on both Islam and Communism. Here are 10 best bits, translated exclusively into English by Worldcrunch:
Pope Francis explains that, at age 42, he "consulted a Jewish psychoanalyst. For six months, I visited her once a week to clarify certain things. She was very good. ... And then one day, as she was about to die, she called me. Not for the last rites, since she was Jewish, but for a spiritual dialogue. A very fine person."
Describing a "scared" Europe that "closes, closes, closes," he says: "I believe that Europe has become a ‘grandma." Whereas I'd like to see a motherly Europe." He goes on to denounce the Old Continent's low demographics and warns that it can "lose sense of its culture, its tradition. When you think that it's the only continent to have given us such a great cultural wealth, and I want to stress that. Europe must find itself again by returning to its roots. And by not being scared. Not being scared of becoming Mother Europe."
On pedophilia: "If a priest is a child molester, he's sick."
NO GAY MARRIAGE
"‘Marriage" is a historical word. It's always been between a man and a woman, in human history, not just in the Church. You cannot change it haphazardly. ... It's the nature of things. They are this way. ... Let's not play around with truths. It's true that there is the gender ideology behind it. In books too, children learn that they can choose their own sex. Because one's gender, being a woman or a man, would be a choice and not a fact of nature? This favors this mistake. But let's say things the way they are: Marriage is a man and a woman. This is the exact term. Let's call same-sex union ‘civil union.""
Speaking of the absence of reciprocity with some Muslim countries, he says the problem with Saudi Arabia is their "mentality." He goes on to talk about a future Cairo meeting with the imam of the al-Azhar mosque, and says that Muslims "could benefit from a critical study of the Koran, as we did with our Scriptures. The historical-critical method of interpretation will allow them to evolve."
WOMEN IN HIS LIFE
Francis reflects on his relationships with females through his life, including teenage girlfriends. "Always being in contact with women has enriched me. I learned, even in adulthood, that women see things differently than men. When faced with a decision, with a problem, it's important to listen to both."
A COMMUNIST FRIEND
"There was one woman, Esther Balestrino de Careaga who taught me to analyze political reality. She was a Communist ... from Paraguay. ... She gave me books, all communist, but she taught me to analyze politics. I owe this woman so much. ... I was once told: "But, you're a Communist!" No. Christians are the real Communists. The others just stole our banner."
"I feel free. It doesn't mean I do everything I want, no. But I don't feel imprisoned, in a cage. I am in a cage here, in the Vatican, but not spiritually. ... Nothing scares me. Maybe it's madness or immaturity!"
"I thank God for having met real women in my lifetime. ... I saw my mother in pain after her last delivery — there were five — when she contracted an infection that left her unable to walk for a year. I saw her suffer. And I saw how she found ways to never waste anything. My father had a good job, he was an accountant, but his salary was just enough for us to see through the end of the month. And I saw this mother, the way she would face problems one after the other… ... She was a real woman, a real mother."