(Vatican Radio) During his in-flight press conference following his visit to Sweden, Pope Francis spoke on Tuesday about a range of topics including welcoming refugees, female priests, relations with the charismatic movements, his talks with Venezuela’s President, secularisation, his upcoming journeys abroad and human trafficking.
In his traditional press conference with journalists travelling with him on the plane back to Rome, Pope Francis was asked first what is his message to those European countries who fear the arrival of refugees and for Sweden, traditionally a country that has been more welcoming to refugees and migrants than many others, but which of late, has started to close its borders. Stressing that we cannot close our hearts to refugees, in his reply the Pope praised Sweden’s example of hospitality towards refugees. At the same time he said it was very important for any country accepting refugees or migrants to make sure that they also take steps to ensure they are properly integrated into their host nations, saying this is a process that takes time. He went on to warn that a country can pay a political price if they take in more refugees than they can integrate properly. In this context, he warned against the formation of ghettos for refugee or migrant communities, saying this was a “dangerous” development that should be avoided.
Asked next how realistic it would be to foresee women priests in the Catholic Church in the coming decades, and if not, why not, Pope Francis said “the last word on this issue was clear” and had been given by Saint John Paul II and “this stands.” At the same time, he stressed that the Church itself is feminine and Mary is more important than the Apostles in terms of the theology and mysticism of the Church on the day of the Pentecost. The Church, he explained, has its Petrine dimension and its Marian dimension and said it could not exist without this female dimension.
Turning next to the Church’s relations with the Charismatic Renewal movement and Evangelical Christians, the Pope was asked for his thoughts ahead of a major event in Rome in 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the former. In his reply he spoke about initiatives taken by him to strengthen and improve relations with the Charismatic Church and the Waldensian Church, both as Pope and when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The Pope also revealed that whereas at first he forbade the Jesuits in Argentina to have anything to do with the Charismatic gatherings, he now believed “the opposite” as long as they were “done well.”
The request for the Vatican to mediate in the crisis in Venezuela between President Nicholas Maduro and the opposition was another question put to the Pope who confirmed in his reply that the Holy See had been asked to mediate in the ongoing dispute in that country and stressed that dialogue is the only way out of this crisis.
Asked next about the phenomenon of secularisation, especially in France and whether it is inevitable, Pope Francis said he believed that this arises when the faith becomes lukewarm and noted that secularisation is very strong in many cultures. He also warned about the effects of spiritual worldliness, saying when it enters into the Church this is “the worst thing” that can happen to it.
The final question put to the Pope was about the scourge of human trafficking which was the subject of a recent conference held by the Santa Marta Group in the Vatican. In his reply, Pope Francis spoke about how moved he was when he saw at first hand the suffering of those who were the victims of human trafficking whilst he was living in Buenos Aires but also praised the work done by many volunteer groups in Italy to combat this scourge. Speaking about his plans for overseas journeys next year, the Pope said that it was “almost certain” he would be going to India and Bangladesh but there were no firm plans yet.