IN LITHUANIA, LATVIA AND ESTONIA
[22-25 SEPTEMBER 2018]
PRESS CONFERENCE OF THE HOLY FATHER
DURING THE RETURN FLIGHT FROM TALLIN (ESTONIA)
Tuesday, 25 September 2018
Good evening, Holy Father. Thank you, above all. Three countries in four days, it's not very easy, it's a bit tiring ... They looked a bit like four countries in four days, because the first day there was China's surprise, so we did it too: we got closer to China. We try to stay on the topic - we have said so many times - to talk about the trip. We will certainly start with local journalists from every country, but let's try in the press conference to talk about the trip to the Baltic countries. I do not know if you want to say something before ...
First of all, thank you for the work you have done, because for you too, three countries in four days, it is not easy. Above all, moving from one side to the other is tiring. Thank you so much for the service you offer to people on this trip, which is the most important thing about your communication: what happened there ... There are very interesting things on this trip, and I expect the questions in this direction.
Thank you. The first is Saulena ŽIUGŽDAITE, Bernardinai.LT, from Lithuania:
Holy Father, thank you for this moment and for all this journey. When he spoke in Vilnius about the Lithuanian soul, he said that we must be a bridge between East and West. But it is not easy to be a bridge: you are always crossed by others. Someone says that our tragedy is that we are on the bridge. Maybe one says: "It is definitely better to become part of the West with its values". What did you mean, what does it mean to be a bridge?
It 's true ... It' obvious that you are part today, politically, the West, the European Union, and you have done so much to enter the European Union. After independence, you immediately made all the formalities, which are not easy, and you managed to enter the European Union, that is, a membership of the West. You also have relations with NATO: you belong to NATO, and this says the West. If you look at the East, there is your story: a hard story. Even part of the tragic history came from the West, from the Germans, from the Poles, but especially from Nazism, this came from the West. And, as far as the East is concerned, from the Russian Empire.
Making bridges supposes, demands fortress. Fortress not only for belonging to the West, which gives you strength, but for your identity. I realize that the situation in the three Baltic countries is always in danger, always. The fear of invasion ... Because history itself reminds you of this. And you are right when you say it is not easy, but this is a game that is played every day, one step after another: with culture, with dialogue ... But it is not easy. I believe that it is our duty to help you in this. More than helping you, being close to you, with your heart.
Thank you, Holy Father. The next question comes from Gints AMOLINS, Latvijas Radio (Latvia)
Good morning, Holiness. In the Baltics, you have often spoken about the importance of roots and identity. From Latvia, and also from Lithuania and Estonia, there are many people who left for more prosperous countries and many are already taking root elsewhere. And then, there are also, as in Europe in general, demographic problems, due to the low birth rate. So, in this situation what can and should our countries do, the leaders of our countries and also each one personally? How should this problem be assessed?
In my homeland, I did not know people from Estonia and Latvia, while Lithuanian immigration is very strong - in relative terms. There are many in Argentina. And they bring culture and history there, and they are proud of the double effort of entering the new country and also of preserving their identity. In their parties there are traditional clothes, traditional songs, and always, whenever they can, they return to their homeland ... I think that the struggle to maintain identity makes them very strong, and you have this: you have an identity strong. An identity that has been formed in suffering, in defense and in work, in culture.
And what can be done to defend the identity? Recourse to the roots, this is important. Identity is an ancient thing, but that must be transmitted. Identity is part of belonging to a people, and belonging to a people must be transmitted. The roots are transmitted to the new generations, and this with education and dialogue, especially between old and young. And you must do it, because your identity is a treasure. Every identity is a treasure, but conceived as belonging to a people. This is what comes to me, I do not know if it corresponds to your question ...
Thank you, Holy Father. And now, Evelyn KALDOJA, Postimees (Estonia)
Thank you. I would like to ask the question in English. [translation] In today's homily, you said that there are some who scream and threaten the use of weapons and the use of armies, and so on. Considering where we are, on that same square there were NATO soldiers who were sent to Estonia as security. Many have thought about the situation on the eastern borders of Europe. Are you worried about the tensions in that area and for the Catholics living on the borders of Europe?
The threat of weapons. Today, world arms costs are scandalous. They told me that with what you spend on weapons in a month, you could feed all the hungry people in the world for a year. I do not know if it's true, it's terrible. Industry, the arms trade, even the smuggling of weapons is one of the biggest corruption. And before this there is the logic of defense. David was able to win with a slingshot and five stones, but today there are no David. I believe that to defend a country, we need a reasonable and not aggressive army of defense. Reasonable and not aggressive. Thus the defense is lawful; and it is also an honor to defend the country as well. The problem comes when it becomes aggressive, not reasonable, and border wars are made. We have many examples of border wars, not only in Europe, towards the East, but also in other continents: we fight for power, to colonize a country. This is, in my opinion, the answer to your question. Today, the arms industry is scandalous, in front of a hungry world. Second: it is lawful, reasonable to have an army to defend the borders, because this is an honor; as it is lawful to have the key to the front door. For defense.
Thank you, Holy Father. The next question is from the German group: Stefanie STAHLHOFEN, from the German Catholic Agency CIC (Germany)
Holy Father, in the ecumenical meeting in Tallinn you said that young people, in the face of sexual scandals, do not see a clear condemnation on the part of the Catholic Church. In Germany, a new inquiry into sexual abuse and how the Church has dealt with so many cases has just come out today.
On this I will speak later. I will answer questions about the trip first. Thank you. This is the rule. But it will be the first question after those on the trip.
We stay on the trip ...
A journalist from the Lithuanian Radio-Television arrives.
I will speak in English. In all three countries, you are in favor of openness: openness towards migrants, openness towards others. But, for example, in Lithuania there was a confrontation on the story of a girl who greeted her on landing, in front of the plane: she did not have a very Lithuanian appearance. It was partly Italian, with a slightly dark skin ... My question is: do people in the Baltic countries listen to only what they want to hear, or listen to what you are trying to tell them? Do they listen to your message on the opening?
The message about openness to migrants is far enough in your people, there are no strong populist fires, no. Estonia and Latvia are also open peoples who want to integrate migrants, but not massively, because they can not, integrate them with the prudence of the government. We talked about this with two of the three heads of state, and the subject touched them, not me. And in the speeches of the Presidents, you will see that the word "welcome", "openness" is frequent. This indicates a will of universality, to the extent that, for space, work can be done, et cetera; to the extent that they can be integrated - this is very important - and to the extent that it is not a threat to one's identity. These are three things that I understood about the migrations of the people. And this has touched me a lot: cautious and well thought out opening. I do not know if you think anything else.
My question was about how your message was received.
I think so. In this sense I said. Because today, the problem of migrants all over the world - and not only external migration, but also internal in the continents - is a serious problem, it is not easy to study it. In every country, in every place, in every place, it has different connotations.
Thank you, Holy Father; we have finished with the questions about the journey.
Very well. I would like to tell you something about some points of the journey that I experienced with a special force.
The fact of your history, of the history of the Baltic States: a history of invasions, of dictatorships, of crimes, of deportations ... When I visited the Museum, in Vilnius: "museum" is a word that makes us think of the Louvre ... No. That museum is a prison, it's a prison where prisoners, for political or religious reasons, were taken. And I saw cells of the size of this seat, where you could only stand up, cells of torture. I have seen places of torture where, with the cold in Lithuania, they took the naked prisoners and threw water on them, and stayed there for hours, to break their resistance. And then I entered the classroom, in the great hall of executions. The prisoners were taken there by force and killed with a blow to the back of the head; then they got out on a conveyor belt and loaded onto a truck that threw them into the forest. More or less he killed forty a day. In the end, there were about fifteen thousand who were killed there. This is part of the history of Lithuania, but also of other countries. What I saw was in Lithuania. Then I went to the place of the Great Ghetto, where thousands of Jews were killed. Then, in the same afternoon, I went to the Memorial in memory of the condemned, murdered, tortured, deported. That day - I tell you the truth - I was destroyed: it made me reflect on cruelty. But I tell you that based on the information we have today, cruelty is not over. The same cruelty is today found in many places of detention, today it is found in many prisons; even the overpopulation of a prison is a system of torture, a way of life without dignity. A prison today, which does not envisage giving the inmate a prospect of hope, is already a torture. Then we saw, on television, the cruelties of the ISIS terrorists: that Jordanian pilot burned alive, those Coptic Christians slaughtered on the beach of Libya, and many others. Today cruelty is not over. It exists all over the world. And this message I would like to give to you, as journalists: this is a scandal, a serious scandal of our culture and our society.
Another thing I have seen in these three countries is the hatred [of the past regime] for religion, whatever it is. Hatred. I saw a Jesuit bishop, in Lithuania or Latvia, I do not remember well, he was deported to Siberia, ten years, then to another concentration camp ... Now he is old, smiling ... So many men and women, for defending their own faith, which was their identity, were tortured and deported to Siberia, and they did not return; or they were killed. The faith of these three countries is great, it is a faith that comes from martyrdom, and this is something that you have seen, talking to people, as you journalists do, to get news of the country.
Moreover, this experience of faith so important has produced a singular phenomenon in these countries: an ecumenical life as there is in others, so generalized. There is a true ecumenism: ecumenism between Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans and even Orthodox. In the cathedral yesterday, at the ecumenical meeting in Latvia, in Riga, we saw it: a great thing; brothers, neighbors, together in one church ..., neighbors. Ecumenism has taken root there.
Then, there is another phenomenon in these countries that is important to study, and perhaps you can do many good things in your profession, studying this: the phenomenon of the transmission of culture, identity and faith. Usually, the transmission was done by the grandparents. Because? Because the fathers worked, dad and mother had to work, and they had to be part of the party - both in the Soviet and Nazi regime - and also educated in atheism. But grandparents were able to transmit faith and culture. In the time when Lithuanian language was banned in Lithuania, it was taken away from the schools, when they went to the religious service - both Protestant and Catholic - they took prayer books to see if they were in Lithuanian or in Russian or German . And many - one generation, at that time - learned their mother tongue from their grandparents: they were grandparents who taught to write and read their mother tongue. This makes us think, and it would be nice some article, some television service on the transmission of culture, language, art, faith in moments of dictatorship and persecution. You could not think of anything else, because all the media, which at that time were few - the radio - were taken by the state. When a government becomes, it wants to become dictatorial, the first thing it does is take over the media.
I wanted to emphasize these things.
And now, I refer to today's meeting with young people. Young people are scandalized: I introduce here the first question that was out of the theme of travel. Young people are scandalized by the hypocrisy of the great. Wars are scandalized, incoherence is scandalized, corruption is scandalized. And in this of corruption comes what she pointed out, sexual abuse. It is true that there is an accusation to the Church, and we all know, we know the statistics, I will not tell you here. But even if he had been a single priest to abuse a child, a child, this would still be monstrous, because that man was chosen by God to bring the child to heaven. I understand that young people are scandalized by this great corruption. They know that there is everywhere, but in the Church it is more scandalous, because we must take the children to God, and not destroy them. Young people try to work their way through experience. The meeting with young people today was very clear: they ask for listening, they ask for listening. They do not want fixed formulas. They do not want a directive accompaniment. And the second part of this question, which was the first one beyond the journey, was that "the Church does not do things as it should in this, in cleaning up this corruption". I take the Pennsylvania Report, for example, and see that until the early 70s there were many priests who fell into this corruption. Then, more recently, they decreased because the Church realized that she had to fight in another way. In the past, these things were covered. They also covered themselves at home, when his uncle was raping his granddaughter, when his father raped his children: they covered each other, because it was a very big shame. It was the way of thinking of the last centuries, and of the last century. In this, there is a principle that helps me to interpret history: a historical fact must be interpreted with the hermeneutics of the era in which this fact occurred, not with today's hermeneutics. For example: indigenism. There have been so many injustices, so many brutalities. But it can not be interpreted with today's hermeneutics when we have another awareness. One last example: the death penalty. Even the Vatican as a state, when it was a Papal State, had the death penalty; the last one was beheaded in about 1870, a criminal, a young man. But then the moral conscience grows, the moral conscience grows. It is true that there are always loopholes, there are always hidden death sentences: you are old, you are annoyed, I do not give you medicines ... and then they say: "it is gone". It is a death sentence - social - of today. But I think with this to have answered. The Church: I take the example of Pennsylvania, look at the proportions and see that when the Church has begun to become aware of this, she has put it all. And in recent times I have received many, many convictions issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and I said: "Forward, forward". Never, never have I signed a request for pardon after a sentence. On this one does not negotiate, there is no negotiation.
Antonio Pelayo, of "Vida nueva" Antena 3 (Spain):
Holy Father, three days ago an agreement was signed between the Holy See and the Government of the People's Republic of China. Can you give us some additional information on this, on its content? Because some Chinese Catholics, especially Cardinal Zen, accuse you of having sold the Church to the communist government in Beijing after so many years of suffering. What is your response to this accusation?
This is a process of years, a dialogue between the Vatican Commission and the Chinese Commission, to fix the appointment of bishops. The Vatican team has worked hard. I would like to make some names: Msgr. Celli, who patiently went, talked, came back ... years, years! Then, Msgr. Rota Graziosi, a humble 72-year-old curial who wanted to be a priest in the parish but remained in the Curia to help in this process. And then, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, who is a very devoted man, but has a special devotion to the lens: all the documents study them point, comma, accents ... And this gives me a very great security. And this team has gone on with these qualities. You know that when you make a peace agreement or a negotiation, both parties lose something, this is the rule. Both sides. And it goes on. This process went like this: two steps forward, one back, two forward, one back ...; then months have passed without talking to each other, and then ... They are the times of God, which resemble Chinese time: slowly ... This is wisdom, the wisdom of the Chinese. The situations of the bishops who were in difficulty were studied on a case-by-case basis, and eventually the dossiers arrived on my desk and I was responsible for the signature, in the case of the bishops. As for the Agreement, the drafts passed on my desk, we talked, I gave my ideas, the others argued and went on. I think of resistance, to the Catholics who have suffered: it is true, they will suffer. In an agreement there is suffering. But they have a great faith and they write, they send messages, stating that what the Holy See, which Peter says, is what Jesus says: that is, the "martyr" faith of these people goes on today. They are great. And I signed the Agreement, the Plenipotentiary Letters to sign that Agreement. I am the manager. The others, whom I have nominated, have worked for more than ten years. It is not an improvisation: it is a journey, a true path.
And then, a simple anecdote and a historical fact, two things before ending. When there was that famous communiqué of a former Apostolic Nuncio, the episcopates of the world wrote to me saying that they felt close, that they prayed for me; also the Chinese faithful wrote, and the signing of this writing was of the bishop - so to speak - of the traditional Catholic Church and of the bishop of the Patriotic Church: together, both of them, and the faithful of both the Churches. For me, this was a sign of God. And the second thing: we forget that in Latin America - thank God this is overcome! - we forget that for 350 years the kings of Portugal and Spain were to appoint bishops. And the Pope gave only jurisdiction. Let's forget the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: Maria Teresa got tired of signing bishop appointments, and gave jurisdiction to the Vatican. Other times, thank God, that are not repeated! But the current case is not for the nomination: it is a dialogue on possible candidates. The thing is done in dialogue. But the appointment is from Rome; the appointment is of the Pope, this is clear. And we pray for the suffering of some who do not understand or who have many years of clandestine life behind them.
Thank you so much! They tell us that dinner is ready and the flight is not long. Thank you very much! Thank you so much for your work. And pray for me.
Thank you, Holy Father. Good dinner and good rest.