A big heart, open to God.
That’s how America magazine sums up Pope Francis’ first interview in an English speaking publication.
The first question: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” (That’s the Pope’s given name, for those following at home.)
“I am a sinner,” said Pope Francis. “This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
The Pope’s comments about social issues—he thinks the Catholic Church has spent too much time talking about abortion and homosexuality—have gotten most of the attention so far.
But his comments about his own personal faith and about church leadership were striking.
He said essentially that living in the Papal apartments would have been bad for his soul. The entrance to apartments is cramped and few people visit there.
Instead, he lives in the same Vatican guesthouse where he stayed during the conclave when he was elected. The papal apartment was nice but not for him.
“… in the end it is like an inverted funnel,” he said. “It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.”
He also said that real spirituality is found in community. Jesus saves Christians in order that they can be part of his holy people, said the Pope.
“In the history of salvation, God has saved a people,” he said. “There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.
Among other highlights:
• “I see the holiness in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity.
• “For me, the relationship between the ancient Catholic churches and the young ones is similar to the relationship between young and elderly people in a society. They build the future, the young ones with their strength and the others with their wisdom. You always run some risks, of course. The younger churches are likely to feel self-sufficient; the ancient ones are likely to want to impose on the younger churches their cultural models. But we build the future together.
• “I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”
• “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
With so many people talking about the pope’s interview, evangelical Christians have an opportunity to jump into the conversation and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bob Smietana is an award-winning journalist and senior writer for Facts & Trends.