In a long interview with Italian TV channel RAI1, broadcast on November 1, 2023, Pope Francis spoke about various topics, ranging from when was the last time he went to the beach to how he feels the Synod on the future of the Church went. Aleteia summarizes the most significant parts of the interview, which also touched on priestly celibacy, the role of women in the Church, the arms industry, and the Pope’s health.
Editor’s note: In this interview Pope Francis also confirmed he will be attending COP28 in Dubai, which Aleteia has written about in a separate article.
A “positive” result for the Synod
Pope Francis described as “positive” the outcome of the Synod on the future of the Church, which held a general assembly that ended on October 29 after nearly a month’s work. “Everything was talked about with complete freedom,” the Pope emphasized.
“I think we have arrived at that very exercise of synodality that St. Paul VI had wanted at the end of the [Second Vatican Council] because he realized that the Church of the West had lost the synodal dimension that the Easter Churches have,” the Pontiff explained, while highlighting that the Synod will continue with a final phase in October 2024.
When asked about the question of women’s ordination, which was raised during the Synod, the Pope assured the audience that “women can do anything in the Church,” except for ministerial functions, which are reserved for men. “If we want to reduce this to functionalism, we lose,” he asserted.
“From the theological, ministerial point of view, they are different things: the Petrine principle, which is that of jurisdiction, and the Marian principle, which is the most important one because the Church is woman,” the Pope explained. “It takes a theology to understand this, and the power of the female Church and women in the Church is stronger and more important than that of male ministers.”
“Mary is more important than Peter because the Church is woman,” he added.
No need to reconsider priestly celibacy
When asked about priestly celibacy, the Pope acknowledged that it was a discipline imposed by the Latin Church in the Middle Ages and that it could be abolished. “I don’t think it helps [to abolish it],” he nonetheless said, adding that “the problem is something else.”
“It is true that it would remove a very bad thing that some priests have: they are ‘spinsters,’” Pope Francis said. “The priest has to be a father; he has to be embedded in a community. Sometimes, this worries me a lot, when the priest looks at himself internally and makes himself a figure of the sacred.”
The Pontiff instead highlighted the example of a parish priest who was serving three small villages totaling around 1,500 people and who “also knew the name of people’s dogs.”
To a question about the place in the Church of people with homosexual tendencies, again raised during the Synod, the Pope replied to the journalist that “today it is a bit fashionable to talk about this,” but that the principle remained unchanged for him: “the Church receives all those who can be baptized.” He insisted that it was a question of welcoming people, not “organizations that want to enter” the Church.
The arms industry at work behind conflicts
During the interview, Pope Francis also spoke at length about the war in the Holy Land and Ukraine, calling on the audience not to forget the conflicts ravaging Yemen, North Kivu (in the Democratic Republic of Congo), or the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
“The world is at war but the arms industry is behind it,” he said.
Regarding the Vatican’s attempt at mediation between Ukraine and Russia, he said he felt the Russian embassy “behaved very well in releasing people who could be released,” such as certain prisoners. However, the Pontiff said that “the dialogue stopped there.” He also added that with regards to a possible trip to Russia and Ukraine, he had received a message from the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying: “Thank you if you want to come, but it is not necessary.”
The Pope is more confident about his health
On the subject of his health, the Pontiff was very reassuring, saying that his knee problem, which has forced him to use a wheelchair in that last year, was improving. “I can now walk well,” he declared.
He also mentioned the two colon operations he underwent: one in July 2021 for diverticulitis and then in June 2023 to prevent an intestinal occlusion. He remarked that he had even seen a video of the second operation. “Now I am very well; I can eat anything,” he said.
No beach since 1975
On a more anecdotal note, the Pontiff said that he last went to the beach in 1975, and was nostalgic for the days when he listened to opera on the radio every Saturday with his mother in Buenos Aires.
When asked about if his faith had ever wavered the Pope acknowledged that sometimes there can be doubts that feel like “walking on dark paths” but he has never “lost” his faith.