(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says that being with people does him good.
In a long and very personal interview with Juan Beretta, a reporter from the Argentinean newspaper “La Voz Del Pueblo”, the Pope speaks of his feelings of when he was elected Pope, of how he misses walking the streets, using public transport and sitting down for a pizza, of how he feels moved and sad when he meets sick children, prison inmates and people who’ve had no opportunities in life, of how he would like to be remembered “as someone who did some good”.
The interview, conducted in the privacy of his residence at Casa Santa Marta, offers some insights into the everyday life of Francis who says that never would he have expected to be elected as the Successor of Peter, but of how the life of a religious, “a Jesuit, undergoes change according to necessity”.
Did not expect to be elected Pope
To the question whether he had ever “dreamt” of becoming Pope, Francis says: “Never! Nor, for that matter, of becoming a President or an Army General – as some children do! I never did. ”
He speaks of the years in which his life, as a Jesuit, changed according to the situations. And he says that when he travelled to Rome to vote in the last Conclave, he had a return ticket in his pocket and an unfinished homily on his desk at home. “For British bookmakers the odds of me becoming Pontiff were given at 46 to 1!” he laughs.
Asked how he felt when he was elected Pope on March 13, 2013, Francis said he felt “great peace”. During the casting of the last ballots he was left alone to pray the rosary and was given words of encouragement by his friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes who told him not to worry because “the Holy Spirit was taking care of everything”.
Afterwards, he says, he was led into the Sacristy where he changed his cassock, and stepping out on the balcony, the words he pronounced just came to him: “I felt so much peace and the words came from my heart”.
Being with people makes me feel good
Regarding his exceptional relationship with people, Pope Francis says that “being with people does me good”. He says that people understand him and comprehend what he wants to say. “Psychologically I can’t be far from people”.
And speaking of everyday life in the Casa Santa Marta he explains it is an ordinary guest house for some 40 people who work for the Holy See and for visiting bishops, priests and lay people. He says they all share their meals in the dining room and attend Mass together four mornings a week.
I miss going out for a “pizza,” but I do not like “protocol”
Talking about what he misses most today, the Pope says: “walking”. Going out into the streets and sitting down for pizza: “Ordering one in the Vatican is not the same thing.” He reveals that he has always been a big walker and back in Argentina he used to catch the subway and really “live the city”. He tells of the time when he forgot to roll up the window in the vehicle he was being driven in “and chaos erupted” when the people in the street realized it was the Pope in the car and they crowded around in excitement “and the car couldn’t get passed”. He says he known for “lacking in discipline” and confesses that although he finds protocol cold, today he says that in official occasions he “keeps to it totally”.
Wakeup at 4am after a good night’s sleep
Notwithstanding the grave responsibilities tied to his role, Pope Francis says he sleeps deeply for six hours in a row. He awakes (no need for an alarm clock!) at 4am and recharges thanks to a 40” siesta during the day.
Before falling asleep in the evening Francis reads a little; he reveals he is currently reading a book about the great spiritual teacher Saint Silouan the Athonite.
Does the Pope cry?
In his homilies Pope Francis often refers to the importance of “being able to cry” and feel “tenderness”. He speaks in the interview of the times he himself has been moved to tears when confronted with “human dramas” – in particular, he speaks of the drama of the “Rohinga people” and more generally of his sadness when he meets sick children: When I see them – he says – I ask the Lord ‘why them and not me?’
The Pope also speaks of being deeply moved when visiting people who are in prison because “no one can be sure he will never commit a crime and end up in prison”. And speaking of inmates Francis says he asks himself why is it that they have never had the same opportunities in life that he has?.
The Pope says he does not cry publically, but it has happened that he has just managed to keep back his tears, such as when recently he was talking about “the persecutions of Christians in Iraq and the fate of the children there”.
Keeping on working at a fast pace
Francis describes himself as having quite a bold and daring character, therefore generally – he says - he is not afraid. As regards the possibility of being the target of an attack he says he is serene “and in the hands of God”, but he confesses to fear physical pain and suffering.
Regarding the pressure he feels as he carries out his Ministry, the Pope says the work is intense and sometimes he suffers from a sort of an “end-of-year” syndrome when one is faced with an intense workload and the fatigue of having to tackle exams.
In his work, he mentions specifically the peril of being taken out of context by the media, and he says he does not follow the political evolution of his homeland, Argentina, which he says is land of much potential and many wasted opportunities.
Does not watch TV, surf the internet or follow football
Helping him keep up to date with world affairs, Pope Francis leafs through the Italian daily newspaper “La Repubblica” in the morning for not more than ten minutes.
He says he has not watched television since 1990 when he made a promise to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
And regarding his being a football fan who roots for Buenos Aires’ San Lorenzo team, Pope Francis says he does not watch games any more but there is a Swiss Guard in the Vatican who keeps him up to date with results.
The Pope of the poor
When asked whether he is happy to be called the Pope of the poor, Francis says that poverty is at the heart of the Gospel: “Jesus came to preach to the poor, it is impossible to take poverty away from the Gospel”.
The Pope says the worst evils in the world today are “poverty, corruption, human trafficking”.
Although many believe that the eradication of poverty is a utopia, the Pope says ideals are what move us forward. He says that it would be very sad if young people were not utopian and idealistic. He lists three things we should all keep in mind as we face the problems that arise: “memory, the capacity to see the present, a utopian vision for the future”.
In conclusion, when asked how he would like to be remembered, Francis’s answer is simple: “As a person who has done his best to do good. I have no other claim”.