(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis denounces the triumphalism of drug traffickers and also said he aims to visit his home country in 2016. He was speaking in a wide-ranging interview with an Argentinian newspaper, La Carcova News, a publication recently set up by young people living in a shantytown area of Buenos Aires. The Pope was answering a series of questions put to him by young people on topics that included drug trafficking, faith, wasted lives, the virtual world and plans to visit Argentina.
Asked first about his emphasis on going to the peripheries, Pope Francis replied that it’s only by going outside the centre to the peripheries we discover new things. “We see reality better from the peripheries than we do from being in the centre.”
Some of the Pope’s strongest words in the interview came when he answered a question about the ever advancing drug problem and how young people can defend themselves from this scourge. Pope Francis acknowledged the seriousness of the drugs problem saying: “What worries me even more is the triumphalism of drug traffickers. These people sing their victory out loud, they feel that they have won, that they have triumphed. And this is a reality. There are countries or regions that are now totally in thrall to the drug trade.”
Several of the questions put to Pope Francis were about faith. He said: “I find it so sad when I see children who don’t know how to make the sign of the cross. It means the child has not been given the most important gift a father and a mother can give their child: faith.”
Pope Francis said we need to get used to the fact that faith is not a feeling. Sometimes the Lord grants us the grace of this feeling, but faith is more than that. Faith is my relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that He has saved me.This is really what faith is about. Look back at those moments in your life when you were down, when you were lost and when nothing seemed to go right and observe how Christ saved you.” “After all,” the Pope repeated, “faith is a gift, it’s not a psychological state. When you are presented with a gift, you take it don’t you?”
STARTING OVER AGAIN:
In answer to a question about what makes it possible for people as individuals or within groups to get back on their feet, even when everything seems lost, Francis responded that “everyone can change, even people facing very trying situations, everyone. I know some people who had let themselves go, who were throwing their lives away and are now married with a family. This is not optimism. It is certainty in two things: in man and in the person. A person is made in the image of God and God does not look down on his own image, he saves it somehow, he always finds a way to retrieve it when it obscured. Secondly, it is the strength of the Holy Spirit that changes the conscience. God does not abandon His children.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING:
In answer to another question, the Pope said he was aware he is surrounded by many people who do not agree with what he says and does but he added that “listening to people has never done me any harm. Every time I have listened to people, it’s always worked out well for me. On the occasions I haven’t listened to them, things haven’t worked out so well. Because even if you don’t agree with someone, they always - always! – give you something or place you in a situation that pushes you to rethink your position. And this makes you a better person.”
Asked about the tendency for young people in today’s world to embrace virtual relationships, the Pope reflected in his answer on the dangers of the virtual reality and the flow of information and content via the social media networks. “We have a great capacity to gather information and this can turn young people into “museums”, into collectors of images and data that dull and weaken their ability to be critical. “In real life, fertility does not just come from the accumulation of information or simply through virtual communication. Virtual love does not exist. The declaration of virtual love exists, but real love requires physical, concrete contact.”
AVOIDING A USELESS LIFE:
Pope Francis admitted that there were times in his life when it was not particularly rich or intense. “I am a sinner like everybody else. It’s just that the Lord leads me to do things that are visible, but how often we see people who are doing so much good without being seen!”
When asked whether he could give suggestions for Argentinian politicians in view of this year’s elections, Pope Francis limited himself to giving some generalised methodological tips. He called for a “clear electoral platform, where each individual says: if we win, we are going to do this and this. Very concrete!” Above all, the Pope said he hoped that the “election campaign will be free and not financed. Because when election campaigns are financed there are many interests involved and you have to take these into account later on.” Pope Francis admitted that this was wishful thinking on his part as in reality” money is always needed for manifestos and television coverage.” Nevertheless, he insisted: "There must be transparency in fundraising for election campaigns. As a citizen I should know that I am financing this candidate with this precise sum of money. There must be transparency and honesty in all areas.”
PAPAL VISIT TO ARGENTINA:
The final question which Pope Francis was asked by his interviewers was when he would be visiting his home country. In his answer, the Pope confirmed that he should be travellingto Argentina in 2016 but said “it will need to be fitted in with visits to other countries.” Asked then about the reports on television about “fanatics” who want to kill him, the Pope responded by saying that “our life is in God’s hands. I say to the Lord: You take care of me. But if it is your will that I should die or that someone should do something to me, I ask you only this: that it won’t hurt me because I’m very much a wimp when it comes to physical pain.”