“If Europe does not look well at the challenges ahead, Europe will wither, it will be withered.,” Pope Francis said in response to a question about recent trends in European politics. Asked about groups “that do not desire fraternity” but “prefer to go it alone,” the Pope said Europe needs to “take up again the mysticism of the founding fathers.” Europe needs “to be itself,” to rediscover “its own identity, its own unity,” in order to overcome “divisions and borders.” He acknowledged that nations have their own proper identity, which they must protect; but, he continued, “with the mysticism of the polyhedron.” There is a “globalization,” he said, “where all cultures are respected, but all are united.”
Asked by a Romanian reporter about his “message” for parents who leave their children to work abroad, the Holy Father said, “To detach oneself so that the family doesn’t lack anything is an act of love… Such a detachment is always a painful situation.” He lamented policies that made such separations necessary, saying it is not simply a question of local problems, but of a worldwide “lack of solidarity”. He said world solidarity is needed.
Speaking specifically about Italy, in response to a separate question, Pope Francis said he does not pay close attention to news about various political campaigns; and, he confessed, “I don’t understand Italian politics.” Instead, he said he prays that “all Italy might go forward, and that Italians might unite, that they might be loyal to their compromise.” Denouncing corruption, which he said occurs everywhere, Pope Francis said, “We must help politicians to be honest and not to campaign with dishonest banners, calumny, defamation, scandals, and so often sowing hatred and fear.” “This is terrible,” he said. “The politician should not spread hatred and fear, [but] only hope,” while nonetheless speaking out about true needs.
Pope Francis spoke about “the relationship of the outstretched hand, when there are conflicts” in answer to a question about relationships between various religious confessions, between various ethnic groups, and in the world of politics. With regard to the Orthodox, in particular, Pope Francis praised the Romanian Patriarch Daniel. “We spoke as brothers,” he said. And, as he has often done in the past, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of an ecumenism “of blood” and “of charity”, referring respectively to the common witness given by martyrs of different Christian confessions, and to Christians from different communities working together to help “the poor, the sick, the infirm.”
One reporter asked if Pope Francis continued to see Benedict XVI almost like a “grandfather,” recalling his message to young people calling them to maintain a relationship with their elders. Pope Francis said that he gains strength every time he speaks with the pope emeritus. “The sap from the roots helps me to go forward,” he said. “Tradition is like the root that give you the sap to grow, you flourish!” But, he said, paraphrasing Gustav Mahler, “tradition is the guarantee of the future, and not the guardian of ashes.” This kind of tradition is the “nostalgia of the integrists.” True tradition, he said, is the “root that allows the tree to grow… when the young have roots, the grandparents can dream.”
At the beginning of his conversation with journalists, the Holy Father recalled the World Day of Communications, celebrated each year on the Sunday before Pentecost. “Today this Day calls you, our thoughts go out to you: You work in communications, you are workers, and you are, or ought to be witnesses of communication. Today communication is going backwards, in general. The ‘contact’ is going forward, making ‘contacts’, and not getting to communicating. You by vocation are witness of communicating, you have to make ‘contacts’ but you have to communicate. A little bit less contacts, and more communication.”
At the end of the press conference, Pope Francis said he was grateful for the rain, which allowed him to see “the beautiful landscape of Romania.” He concluded with a request for “believers” among the journalists “to pray for Europe, for unity, that the Lord will give us grace.” And to those who are not believers, he said “hope for good will, a heartfelt best wish, the desire that that Europe might once again be the dream of the founding fathers.”