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Pope Francis: ‘Jesus was popular and look how that turned out’

Pope Francis blesses a painting depicting the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus during the weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on March 25, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-RADIO, originally transmitted on Sept. 14, 2015.
Pope Francis blesses a painting depicting the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus during the weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on March 25, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-JESUS, originally transmitted on September 14, 2015.

Pope Francis blesses a painting depicting the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus during the weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on March 25, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-RADIO, originally transmitted on Sept. 14, 2015.

(RNS) In two wide-ranging new interviews, the pontiff discusses matters both weighty and personal, such as: the perils of his popularity, his plans to welcome divorced and remarried Catholics, and his fear that the church has locked Jesus up like a prisoner.

Speaking on Sunday (Sept. 13) to the Argentine radio station, FM Milenium, Francis lamented those who posed as his friends to exploit him, and decried religious fundamentalism.

And speaking to Portugal’s Radio Renascenca in an interview that aired on Monday, Francis put his own popularity into perspective: “Jesus also, for a certain time, was very popular, and look at how that turned out.”

He said that a priest comes to hear his confession every 15 to 20 days: “And I never had to call an ambulance to take him back in shock over my sins!”

Here are excerpts from the FM Milenium interview provided in English translation by Vatican Radio and National Catholic Reporter:

On false friends: “Friendship is something very sacred. … But the utilitarian sense of friendship — to see what I can get out of being close to this person and making myself his friend — this pains me. I have felt used by some people who have presented themselves as ‘friends’ whom I may not have seen more than once or twice in my lifetime, and they used this for their own gain. But this is an experience which we have all undergone: utilitarian friendship.”

On religious fundamentalism: “In any confession there will be a small group of fundamentalists whose work is to destroy in the interests of an idea, not of a reality. Reality is superior to an idea. God, whether in Judaism, in Christianity, or in Islam, in the faith of those three peoples, accompanies God’s people with his presence. In the Bible we see it, Muslims in the Quran. Our God is a God of nearness, which accompanies. Fundamentalists push God away from the companionship of his people; they dis-incarnate him, they transform him into an ideology. Therefore, in the name of this ideological God, they kill, attack, destroy, and calumniate. Practically, they transform this God into a Baal, into an idol.”

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson.

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson.

On legalistic priests: “When a priest isolates himself, in his solemn or legalistic posture, or in the posture of a prince … when he distances himself, he embodies in a certain way those persons to whom Jesus dedicates the whole of chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew. … Those legalists, Pharisees, Sadducees, doctors of the law that feel themselves among the pure.”

Here are excerpts from an English translation of the Portuguese interview provided by Radio Renascenca:

On playing it safe or taking risks: “Life without problems is dull. It’s boring. Man has, within him, the need to face and solve conflicts and problems. Obviously, an education to not have problems is an aseptic education. Try it: Take a glass of mineral water, common tap water, then take a glass of distilled water. It’s disgusting, but the distilled water doesn’t have problems. … (laughs) … It’s like raising children in a lab, isn’t it? Please! … Run risks and always set goals!”

On today’s self-centered culture: “We demand our rights, but not our obligations towards society. I believe that rights and obligations should go hand in hand. Otherwise we are creating a mirror education; because education in front of a mirror is narcissism and today we are living in a narcissistic civilization.”

On the ‘god of money’ behind today’s refugee crisis: “These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause, and the cause is a bad and unjust socio-economic system, in everything, in the world. Speaking of the ecological issue, within our socio-economic structure, within politics, at the center there must always be the person. And today’s dominant economic system has replaced the person at the center with the god of money, the idol.”

On his own immigrant history: “I am the son of emigrants and I belong to the emigration of 1929 (from Italy to Argentina). … It is true that, in those days there was work, but the ones from my family — who had jobs when they arrived in 1929 — by 1932, with the economic crisis of the ’30s, were out on the street, with nothing. My grandfather bought a warehouse with 2,000 pesos which he borrowed, and my father, who was an accountant, was selling goods out of a basket. So they had the will to fight, to succeed. … I know about migration!”

On self-centered societies inviting immigration: “When there is an empty space, people try to fill it. If a country has no children, immigrants come in and take their place. I think of the birth rate in Italy, Portugal and Spain. I believe it is close to zero percent. So, if there are no children, there are empty spaces. And this not wanting to have children is, partly — and this is my interpretation, which may not be correct — due to a culture of comfort, isn’t it? In my own family I heard, a few years ago, my Italian cousins saying: ‘Children? No. We prefer to travel on our vacations, or buy a villa, or this and that.’ … And the elderly are more and more alone.”

On Europe’s future: “I believe Europe’s greatest challenge is to go back to being a mother Europe (as opposed to) grandmother Europe.”

On the need for the Catholic Church to change: “If somebody has a room in his house which is closed for long periods, it develops humidity, and a bad smell. If a church, a parish, a diocese or an institute lives closed in on itself, it grows ill … and we are left with a scrawny church, with strict rules, no creativity. Safe, more than safe, insured by an insurance agency, but not safe! On the contrary — if it goes forth — if a church and a parish go out into the world, then once outside they might suffer the same fate as anybody else who goes out: have an accident. Well, in that case, between a sick and a bruised church, I prefer the bruised, because at least it went into the street.”

On the church keeping Jesus locked up: “In the Bible, in the book of the Apocalypse, there is something extremely beautiful about Jesus … in which he is speaking to a church and says: ‘I am at the door and I knock. … If you open the door I will come in and share a meal with you.’ But, I ask, how often, in church, has Jesus knocked on the door, but on the inside, so as to be let out to proclaim the kingdom. Sometimes we appropriate Jesus just for us and we forget that a church which is not going out into the world, a church which does not go out, keeps Jesus imprisoned.”

On why he was elected pope: “You have to ask the Holy Spirit!”

On why he streamlined the annulment process“(T)o simplify … Ease people’s faith. And that the church might be like a mother.”

On whether the church can welcome couples whose relationships don’t line up with church teachings, such as those who are divorced and remarried: “At the synod (next month’s Vatican summit of bishops from around the world) we will be speaking about all the possible ways to help these families. But one thing should be very clear — something Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI left quite clear: People who are in a second union are not excommunicated and should be integrated into church life. This was made crystal clear. I also said this quite clearly: drawing closer to the Mass, to catechesis, their children’s education, charity. … There are so many different options.”

On his own popularity: “I often ask myself what my cross will be like, what my cross is like. … Crosses exist. You can’t see them, but they are there. Jesus also, for a certain time, was very popular, and look at how that turned out. So nobody has their happiness guaranteed in this world.”

On trying to break out of the papal bubble: “Yes, I need to get out, but it’s still not quite time. … But little by little I have some contact with people on Wednesdays (at the public general audience in St. Peter’s Square) and that helps me a lot. What I miss most about Buenos Aires is going out and walking in the street.”

On what keeps him awake at night: “The truth? I sleep like a rock!”

On what motivates him: “Having lots of work to do.”

On how often he goes to confession: “Every 15 or 20 days. I confess to a Franciscan priest, Father Blanco, who is kind enough to come here and confess me. And I never had to call an ambulance to take him back in shock over my sins!”

On how and where he would like to die: “Wherever God wants. Seriously … Wherever God wants.”

On what he imagines eternity to be like: “When I was younger I imagined it would be very dull (laughs). Now, I think it is a mystery of encounter. It is almost unimaginable, but it must be very beautiful and wonderful to meet with God.”

LM/AMB END GIBSON

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

18 Comments

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  • “Crosses exist. You can’t see them, but they are there.”

    So much is wrong with this answer. I don’t know where to begin.
    Sad to see grown men so full of nonsense.

  • The real Jesus is now known but he is ~20% of the man depicted in the Gospels and therefore there has been a significant drop in his popularity. As there will be a significant drop in the popularity of Francis when he has to someday defend the absurdities of the resurrection, the eucharist, original sin, the ascension, and subsets of all these myths.

  • Jesus was very popular with the common people in his day, since he gave them refreshing spiritual truths and felt love and compassion for them, besides performing many miracles, healing the sick and impaired, and resurrecting the dead, such as Lazarus.

    However, the Scribes and Pharisees, or religious leaders, hated Jesus and kept wanting to have him killed, which was accomplished when they wanted Caesar as their King instead of Jesus (John 19:15).

    The fact remains that Jesus knew he was going to be tortured and killed and told his disciples this fact (Matthew 16:21; 17:12; confirmed at Acts 3:14-15).

    Jesus had so much love for his Father, God, as well as for the entire human family, to give up his life as the perfect ransom sacrifice for imperfect and sinful mankind (Matthew 20:28). We should all be so grateful for his love and actions, so that we may eventually achieve everlasting life on earth (John 3:16; 17:3).

  • Jesus didn’t have a Secretariat for Communications. He repeatedly said to those he helped to tell no one.

  • Fran,

    You might want to read outside the NT box that you are stuck in. Some books to peruse are listed at Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

  • I will stay completely focused on the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, which is all inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, reproving, setting things straight, and disciplining in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

    The Bible is God’s gift to man to get to know his loving and just personality, and his marvelous purpose for mankind on earth. Both God and his Word will receive full vindication by his future actions (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:3,4).

    Man cannot evidently get rid of all his problems on his own (look at his entire history), but God has taken the appropriate steps, through time, to put an end to all of them in the near future.

  • Fran,

    Freeing you from the confines of the Torah and the NT:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review.

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob·a·bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation. ”

    ” Thomas Jefferson omitted Revelation along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he “considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac,

    Martin Luther once “found it an offensive piece of work” and John Calvin “had grave doubts about it”.

  • Jesus did not want his miracles advertised (Mark 1:44; 3:12; 7:36), because instead of having people reach a conclusion based on sensational or possibly distorted reports, Jesus wanted them to see for themselves that he was the Christ and to make a personal decision based on that evidence (Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 8:4; 9:30; 12:15-21; 16:20; Luke 5:14).

    An exemption was the case of a formerly demon-possessed man in Gerasenes. Jesus told him to go home and report the matter to his relatives. Jesus had been entreated to go away from that area, so he would have little or no contact with the people there. The presence and testimony of a man to whom Jesus had done a good deed would counteract any negative talk about the loss of the swine (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39).

  • We all have the choice of believing either the words and promises of God, OR the words and promises of imperfect men.

    Jesus definitely came from Abraham’s lineage (Matthew 1:1-17), who definitely lived, and through whom all nations of the earth will be blessed, as God promised Abraham (Genesis 18:18; 26:4).

    You have definitely made your choice and I have definitely made mine. Time will only prove the truth of these matters.

  • And you accept the word of M, M, L and J, four basically unknowns for your beliefs? Might also want to remember that were it not for Pilate ordering the crucifixion of all trouble makers that you would have no religion i.e. your religion should not be called Christianity but “Pilateity”!!!

  • Yes, I do accept their words…over the imperfect “philosophies” of imperfect men and their governments. Although imperfect men were used by God to be inspired by Him to write for our “benefit,” I will never, ever give my trust to imperfect men and his “imperfect” governments or rulership! And “false religion” will finally be exposed for what it truly is by God and done away by Him. The truth will prevail in the end, as it always has! ?

  • Fran,

    More food for thought:

    This also allows the “pew peasants” to now see the true foundations of their Christianity. i.e. the whims of Pilate, the embellishments and myths of the NT and Paul’s epistles (and the pseudo ones), the financial support of the Gentiles, and the swords of Constantine. Take away any of these pillars and there would be no Christianity. And Pilate and Constantine’s crosses and swords to use violence to achieve their goals.

  • I wish the Holy Father would not have blessed this painting – it’s astonishing that the Savior and the Blessed Mother are still being depicted as having skin as white as an ceramic doll and blue eyes and blonde hair, to boot.

    Not right.

  • Constantine was evidently not a true Christian, as he was involved in worldly conflicts or wars, and Jesus and the first-century Christians were not (Matthew 26:52). They also did not get involved in human politics, preaching instead the good news of God’s kingdom or heavenly government.

    As the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus:

    “For we have a wrestling, NOT against BLOOD and FLESH, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

    It was after the death of the last apostle in the Bible, John, that false religion started to make an appearance, and it has only grown and continued into our day.

    Jesus also prophecied that in the last days of a wicked era, false Christs and false prophets would arise to mislead many (Mark 13:21,22), and this has evidently taken place.

  • God is a Spirit (John 4:24), Jesus (the last Adam) became a life-giving spirit person (1 Corinthians 15:45), the angels are spirit persons (Hebrews 1:13,14) and the apostle Paul confirmed that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; see also Luke 24:39).

    Those pictures are no longer applicable, since only spirit persons reside in the heavens, and only humans with physical bodies reside on earth (Matthew 5:5).

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