By Salvatore Cernuzio
“Everyone, everyone,” Pope Francis said in Lisbon at the 2023 World Youth Day in August, and repeated on numerous other occasions to reiterate the principle of welcome at the heart of the Church’s pastoral mission.
Likewise, he said it to describe spontaneous blessings of individuals who are in so-called “irregular” relationships, including homosexual ones, as taken into account by the Vatican’s doctrinal document Fiducia supplicans which was issued in December.
In his interview with the Italian weekly magazine Credere, a periodical of the San Paolo Group, which will be published in the issue on Thursday, 8 February, Pope Francis also returned to the theme of such blessings, which have generated various reactions and controversies, and repeated what he had already mentioned in his audience with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith that drafted the declaration.
“I do not bless a ‘homosexual marriage’; I bless two people who care for each other, and I also ask them to pray for me,” the Pope explained in his conversation with Credere‘s editor Don Vincenzo Vitale.
“Always in confessions, when these situations arrive—homosexual people, remarried people—I always pray and bless. The blessing is not to be denied to anyone. Everyone, everyone. Mind you, I am talking about people: those who are capable of receiving Baptism.”
“The gravest of sins,” the Pope adds, “are those that disguise themselves with a more ‘angelic’ appearance. No one is scandalised if I bless an entrepreneur who perhaps exploits people: and this is a very serious sin. Whereas they are scandalised if I give it to a homosexual… This is hypocrisy! We must all respect each other. Everyone! The heart of the document is welcome.”
In the interview with the weekly magazine, which celebrates ten years since its foundation, born precisely on the occasion of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election in 2013, the Pope retraces the years of his pontificate between personal sharings, such as his dialogues with the elderly or his memories in Buenos Aires, or other pertinent topics, including the Jubilee, “an event of grace” in view of which it is necessary to “rediscover the value and the need for prayer.”
The Pope also spoke of the ecclesial movements and the involvement of young people in pastoral experiences, such as those in developing nations or Latin American countries, where people are spoken to in language they can understand.
“There are also ‘sophisticated’ realities and movements,” the Pope says, that are rather “refined.”
These movements, he says, “tend to form an ecclesiola (‘a little church’), of people who feel superior. This is not the holy, faithful people of God. The people of God is made up of believers who know they are sinners and go ahead. I do not hold it against movements, which do so much good.”
“The movement,” explains the Holy Father, “is good when it inserts you into the real Church, but if they are selective, if they detach you from the Church, if they lead you to think that you are a special Christian, this is not Christian.”
Women’s presence is important, not ministeriality
The Pope’s response on the role of women is also clear, in light of the constant appeals to restore a “female face” to the Church or, the most recent one, to “smaschilizzare la Chiesa” [literally “‘de-masculinize the Church’].
Pope Francis reiterates the difference between the Petrine principle and the Marian principle. “The Church is woman; She is bride. Peter is not woman; he is not bride.”
“The Church-bride is more important than Peter-minister!” he said.
He then adds that “opening up work in the Curia to women is important,” emphasising how women “help the ministry.”
He urges everyone to look at the small villages where there is no priest and nuns run parishes, baptise, give communion, and perform funeral rites. “It is not the ministeriality of women that is the most important thing; instead, the presence of women is fundamental,” the Pope concludes.
New future appointments in the Roman Curia
Looking at the Roman Curia, where several female appointments have taken place over the years, the Pope says, “Now there are several women, and there will be more, because they do better than us men in certain positions.”
Pope Francis cites Sr. Raffaella Petrini, Secretary of the Vatican Governorate, “the women who are in the Dicastery to elect bishops” (who include Sr. Petrini, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, former superior general of the Salesians, and Maria Lía Zervino, President of the UMOFC, Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, Secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, and others.
“These are all posts that need women,” he said.
Finally, when asked if he realises that he has initiated “an epochal change” from this point of view, the Pope replies, “No, really! They tell me, Yes, I go ahead as I can.”