By Elise Harris.
.- Pope Francis gave a recent interview with an Argentinian shanty town's community paper, where he touched on how he feels about ISIS threats and jested about his lack of tolerance for physical pain.
“Look, life is in God's hands. I told the Lord: 'you are taking care of me. But if your will is that I die or that they do something to me, I ask you only one favor: that it doesn't hurt. Because I'm a big coward when it comes to physical pain,'” the Pope told La Carcova News in an interview published in this month's edition of their paper.
Pope Francis made his comments as one answer to a series of questions posed to him by young people. La Carcova is edited by the shanty town community of “Gran Buenos Aires.”
Among the topics Francis addressed were drug trafficking, faith, hope for derailed lives, virtual realities and politics. He also touched on the possibility of a trip to his native Argentina in 2016.
Please see below for the full English translation of the Pope's interview:
You speak a lot about the peripheries; it is a word that you use frequently. What do you think about when you speak of the peripheries? Us, the people in the slums?
When I speak about the peripheries, I speak of limits. Normally, we move about in spaces that in some way we control. That is the center. In the way that we leave the center, we begin to discover other things. When we look at the center from the perspective of the new things we discover, from our new points of view, from that periphery, we see that reality is different. One thing is to see reality from the center and another thing is to see it from the farthest place that you have arrived.
An example. Europe, seen from Madrid in the 16th century was one thing, but when Magellan arrived at the end of the American continent and looked at Europe, from there he understood something different. The reality is seen better from the periphery than from the center: the reality of a person, from the existential peripheries and also the reality of thought. You could have a well developed thought, but when you are confronted with someone that is outside that idea, in some way you have to defend it, you start to argue, and you are enriched by the peripheral thought of the other.
You know our problems. The use of drugs continues to advance and has not been detained, it enters the slums and attacks our youth. Who has to defend us? And how can we defend ourselves?
It is true, it is advancing and has not stopped. There are counties that are slaves of drugs and that worries us. What worries me more is the triumph of drug traffickers. These people claim victory, have won, have triumphed. That is the reality. There are countries and areas where everything is under the control of drug cartels. With respect to Argentina, I can only say this: it was a place where drugs passed through, now drugs are consumed. I am not certain, but I believed that they are also made there.
What is the most important thing that we must give our children?
Belonging, belonging to a home. Belonging is given through love, with care, with time, in hand, listening to them, playing with them, giving them what they need in every moment for their growth. Overall, giving them a place to express themselves. If you do not play with your children, you are keeping them from experiencing gratefulness. If you do not give them a place for them to say what they feel and can even argue with you, because they feel free, you are not allowing them to grow.
But the most important thing is faith. It hurts me a lot when I meet children that do not know how to make the sign of the cross. These children have not received the most important thing a father and mother can give them: the faith.
Do you believe that there always exists the possibility for change, even in difficult situations where people have been very tested by life, and in social or international situations that are the cause of great suffering for people. Where do you get this optimism, even when despair exists?
Every person can change, even the most tested. I know people that were done with life, and are now married and have a home. This is not optimism, that is assurance in two things: first, in man, in the person. The person is the image of God and God does not scorn his image, he redeems it in some way. Second, in the strength of the Holy Spirit which changes our conscience. It is not optimism, it is faith in the person, because he is a child of God. God does not abandon his children. I like to repeat the phrase that we, the children of God, we mess up all the time, we make mistakes, we sin, but when we ask for forgiveness, he always forgives us. He never gets tired of forgiving, it is us, when we believe ourselves to be important, that get tired of asking for forgiveness.
How can we become sure and consistent in the faith? I mean: people live ups and downs, sometimes conscience of the presence of God and that God is a companion along the way, but at other times, this is forgotten and behaves as if God did not exist. Can stability be achieved with a subject like the faith?
Yes, there are ups and downs. In some moments we are conscious of the presence of God, other times we forget about that. The Bible says: the truth of man, of the person on earth is combat. Meaning, you have to be in peace and fighting. Training to not fail, not let down your guard, and on the other hand, enjoying all of the beautiful things that God give you in life. That means, one must be alert, no being defeatist, nor pessimistic.
How to be consistent in the faith? If you do not deny feeling it, you are going to feel it very close to you, you are going to find it in your heart. Another day, it is possible that you do not feel anything. And nevertheless faith is present, right? It is necessary for one to get accustomed to the faith not being a feeling. Sometimes the Lord gives us the grace to feel it, but faith is something more. Faith is my relationship with Jesus Christ, I believe that he saved me. That is the sweet spot of the faith. Go and seek the moments of your life in which you have felt bad, where you were lost, where you did not hit the mark, and look how Christ saved you. Embrace it, that is the source of your faith. When you forget, when you feel nothing, embrace that, because that is the basis of your faith – and always with the Gospel in your hand. Carry a small book of the Gospel in your pocket. Keep it in your house. This is the Word of God. That is how one is nurtured in the faith. At the end, faith is a gift, it is not a psychological attitude, and if you are given a gift, you have to accept it, right? Accept, then, the gift of the Gospel and read it. Read it and listen to the Word of God.
Your life has been intense and full. We also want to live a full and intense life. How can we avoid living pointlessly? How can someone know if they are living without purpose?
Well, I lived a lot of pointlessness. It was not so intense and full. I am just another sinner. What happens is that the Lord made me do things that are seen, but how many times are there people that are not seen. And the good that they do! The intensity is not directly proportional to what people see. The intensity is lived from within and is lived being nurtured from the faith. How? Doing fruitful things, works of love for the good of people. Maybe the worst sin against love would be to renounce being a person. There is a person that loves you, and you deny it as if you did not know it. God is loving you and you deny it. He who loves us most is God. To deny God is one of the worst sins that there is. Saint Peter committed that sin, he denied Jesus Christ…and they made him Pope! So, what is left for me? So no…go ahead!
Do you have anyone close to you that does not agree with you?
Yes, of course.
What is it like with them?
It was never hard for me to listen to other people. Each time that I listen to them, it is always good for me. The times that I did not listen to them, it hurt me because even though you do not agree with them, they always, always are going to give you something or they are going to put you in a situation in which you will have to rethink things. This enriches you. It is the way of behaving with those that do not agree with you. Now, if I do not agree with that person and I stop greeting them, I close the door on them and I do not let them speak, I do not ask them anything, it is evident that I remove myself. This is the richness of dialogue. Dialoging, listening, one enriches himself.
The trend today is to push youth towards virtual relationships. This also happens in the slums. What can be done for them to leave their fantasy world and help them to live in reality and develop true relationships?
I would distinguish between the fantasy world and virtual relationships. Sometimes virtual relationships are not fantasies, they are real, they are real things and very concrete. Evidently the most desireable is not a virtual relationship, meaning, a physical, affectionate relationship in time and with contact. I think that the danger that we run today is to have a very large capacity for information, of being able to virtually move inside of a series of things that can convert us into youth-mannequins. A young-mannequin is well informed, but what do they do with everything they have? The way of being fruitful in life is not to go accumulating information or maintaining only virtual communication but rather to change the world in a concrete way. Ultimately, that means loving.
You can love another person, but if you do not extend your hand, you do not give a hug, it is not love; if you love someone enough to marry them, meaning to desire to give yourself to them completely, and you do not hug them, you do not give them a kiss, it is not true love. Virtual love does not exist. Declaring virtual love exists, but true love anticipates physical, concrete love. Let us go to the essential of life, and that is the essential. So, no youth-mannequin that will only be informed of virtual things, but rather youth that feel and with their own hands – this is the essential – to carry out one’s life. I like to speak about the three languages: the language of the head, the language of the heart and the language of the hands. There has to be harmony amongst them. Such that you think what you feel and what you do, you feel what you think and what you do, and you do what you feel and what you think. That is the essential. To only stay in the virtual world is like living in your head without a body.
Is there something you what to recommend to the Argentinean government in this year of elections?
First, a clear electoral platform. That each one say: we, if we are the government, are going to do “this.” Very concrete. An electoral platform is very healthy, and helps people to see what each one thinks. In one of the elections a few years ago, there was an important anecdote about what some astute journalists did. At about the same time, they ran into three candidates. I do not remember if they were congressman or governors. And they asked each one: what do you think about such thing? Each one gave their response and one of them, a journalist said to him: “but what you think is not the same thing as the Party you represent. Check your Party’s electoral platform…” Sometimes the same candidates do not know their electoral platform. A candidate has to present himself to society with a very clear platform, well studied, explicitly saying: “If I am elected congressman, mayor, governor, I am going to do “this”, because I think that “this” is what has to be done”.
Second, honesty in the presentation of one’s own position. And third – it is one of the things that we have to achieve, I hope we can achieve it – is an unfinanced electoral campaign, not financed. Because in the financing of campaigns, many interests enter and the bill must be paid later on. So, one has to be independent of whoever could finance the campaign. It is an ideal, of course, because there is always a lack of money for posters, for television, but the financing could at least be public money. In this way, I – a citizen- know that I finance this candidate with this determined amount of money. For it to be totally transparent and clean.
When will you go to Argentina?
At the beginning of ’16, but nothing is certain yet because other trips must be organized and to other countries.
We hear on television a lot of news that hurts us, that there are fanatics that want to kill you. You are not afraid? And those of us that care about you, what can we do?
Look, life is in the hands of God. I told the Lord: take care of me, but if your plan is that I die or that they do something to me, I ask you only one favor: that they do not hurt me. Because I am a big coward when it comes to physical pain.