International News

Pope Talks Immigration, State of World and Church

By Inés San Martín

Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 3. (Photo Catholic News Service/Paul Haring)

ROME (Crux) – President Donald Trump’s decision to build an anti-immigrant wall will leave the United States alone and a “prisoner” of its own isolation, according to Pope Francis in his latest wide-ranging interview, this time with a Spanish journalist.

“He who raises a wall ends up a prisoner of the wall he erected,” the pope said. “That’s a universal law in the social order and in the personal one. If you raise a wall between people, you end up a prisoner of that wall that you raised.”

“Yes, I defend my autonomy, yes,” the pope said, “but you’re left alone like a mushroom.”

Pope Francis’s words came in a pre-recorded interview, which took place before he departed on March 29 for an overnight trip to Morocco.

Arms Trafficking and Peace

Speaking to Spanish journalist Jordi Evole of La Sexta, Pope Francis said countries that traffic in arms “have no right to talk about peace.”

“Are they fomenting war in another country and then want peace in their own?” Pope Francis asked. “That theory will boomerang. Life charges them, one way or another. If you arm the war there, you will have [the war in] your house whether you want it or not.”

Clerical Sexual Abuse

Asked about victims of clerical sexual abuse and whether they should go to the police to denounce a crime, Pope Francis said “of course” and insisted such a standard was the outcome of a recent summit on abuse he convened.

Addressing the disappointment of many survivors of abuse after his Feb. 21-24 summit, the pope said that “the concrete scope of the summit was to initiate processes, and that takes time.”

“Anyway, I understand people who have been dissatisfied, because when there is a pain in between, you have to shut up, pray, mourn, accompany, period,” he said. “But initiating processes is the way to make the cure irreversible.”

World Migration

On migration, the pontiff’s focus wasn’t just on the United States.

There are currently several nations building some form of walls and fences to keep migrants out, including Spain, which has erected fences with knife-like spikes at the top. During a segment of the interview, the pope is seen holding one of them, calling them “shameful.”

Talking about the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean that has seen more than 35,000 people drown in recent years trying to reach Europe, the pope said he cannot understand the “insensibility.”

“I don’t understand the injustice of war, the injustice of hunger, the injustice of exploitation, which makes a person migrate looking for better things,” the pope says. “And the injustice of whoever closes the door to him [or her].”

According to the pontiff, a son of Italian immigrants himself, the important thing is to have an open heart, as this is the attitude called for in the Bible: “You were a migrant in Egypt,” he says.

Regarding a boat organized by Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish NGO with a rescue vessel often banned from port after picking up migrants drifting in the Mediterranean, Pope Francis said it’s “wrong” to leave it stranded at sea.

“Why do [migrants] come?” Pope Francis asked, rhetorically. “[Because] they live in despair and are united in a great illusion … they don’t measure the consequences, and we don’t measure the pain those people have,” Pope Francis said.

Asked about Spanish Catholics who don’t welcome migrants, the pope urged them to read the Gospel and to be “coherent.”

Savage Capitalism

Pope Francis said “in general” capitalism provokes the situations of poverty that drive people to flee, because “fewer and fewer reach people with a lot of money and there are more poor people with very little money.”

“This is the hourglass,” he argued. “Capitalism conceived of as a savage, not a social market economy […] What doesn’t work is the world of finance. This also creates wars, for the possession of wealth, does it not, whether they are international or national? I argue that we are already in a third world war, in pieces.”

No Church Without Women

According to a segment of the interview posted by La Vanguardia March 31, Pope Francis was also asked several questions about women, including why they face discrimination both in society and in the Church, to which he said that “to promote women in the Church is to listen to them, to give them functions.”

“What we have not achieved yet is to understand that the figure of the woman goes beyond functionality,” he said. “The Church cannot be Church without the woman, because the Church is a woman, she is feminine. A dimension that does not have femininity in the Church means that the Church is not Church.”

Abortion and Sex Trafficking

Asking about abortion, the journalist posed an extreme example, that of a woman who’s been trafficked and becomes pregnant after rape and wants to have an abortion.

Pope Francis, who’s made the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery one of the pillars of his social agenda, said he would “understand the desperation” but believes “it’s not licit to eliminate a human life to solve a problem.”

Corruption in the Vatican

Talking about corruption in the Vatican, the pontiff said that “yes,” there are merchants in the Vatican like the ones expelled by Jesus from the temple. These “hypocrites,” the pope said, are in the Vatican as they are everywhere else.

“The Vatican City State is not saved from the limits and from the sins and shame of other societies,” he said. “Here we are men, and we have the same limits and sometimes we fall into the same things. You have to clean up. The job is to clean, clean, clean.”

The interview, set to air in Spain, was wide-ranging, including several hot-button issues for local politics as the country heads towards presidential elections a month from now.

One of those issues concerns the Spanish Civil war, and the thousands of bodies that remain buried in unknown graves, “in ditches,” using the journalist’s words.

The pope shared the story of the last Argentine military coup, saying that over 30,000 people disappeared during the dictatorship, “and I was close to that.”

“I have always defended the right to the truth about what happened,” Pope Francis said. “The right to a dignified burial. To find the corpses. Argentina is still doing that, slowly … It’s a right. Not just a right of the family, of society.”

“A society cannot smile to the future by having its dead hidden,” he continued. “The dead are to be buried, they are to be individualized in cemeteries, but not to be hidden. You will never have peace with a dead person hidden. Never.”

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