- Battle lines drawn
This week produced the clearest evidence yet that the Synod Fathers are sharply divided between those who are supporting Pope Francis in his efforts to present a more pastoral vision of the Church and those determined first and foremost to emphasise its moral teaching
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Pope Francis backed the beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero and spoke out on conflicts in Iraq and Gaza during in a conversation with journalists aboard the return flight from South Korea.
During the press conference Pope Francis also addressed concerns that his hectic schedule could lead to burnout by assuring reporters that he holidayed “at home” and treated his neuroses “with herbal tea”.
The cause for sainthood of Archbishop Romero, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in San Salvador in 1980, had been unblocked after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith held it up “for prudence”, he said
“For me, Romero is a man of God,” he added. “He was a man of God but there has to be the process, and the Lord will have to give his sign (of approval). But if He wishes, He will do so! The postulators must move now because there are no impediments.”
Elsewhere he revealed that he hoped to travel to the US, Mexico and Spain in 2015, and that he spoke with Pope Benedict XVI frequently. He said that Benedict’s resignation made emeritus popes an institutional possibility rather than an exception, in a similar way to emeritus bishops.
“[If I felt I could not go on] I would do the same! I would do the same. I would pray, but I would do the same. He (Benedict) opened a door that is institutional, not exceptional,” he said.
On Iraq Francis said that it was “licit” to stop an unjust aggressor, but said that the US must not act alone. He stopped short of explicitly backing military intervention, saying only: “I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means.”
He strongly rejected criticism that the prayer for peace between Israel and Gaza that he hosted in the Vatican in June had been a failure because reconciliation was still an option.
“It is a fundamental step of the human attitude, now the smoke of the bombs and the war do not let one see the door, but the door was left open from that moment [the prayer]. And as I believe in God, I look at that door and the many who pray and who ask that He helps us,” he said.
Revealing details about his day-to-day life at the Vatican, Francis said that he wished he could venture out, but said he did not feel like a “prisoner”. He acknowledged concerns that his demanding schedule had recently forced him to cancel engagements because of illness.
“I always take holidays. It’s true. I change rhythm. I sleep more, I read the things I like. I listen to music. That way I rest. In July and part of August I did that [at home],” he said.
“Once I read a book. It was quite interesting, its title was: Rejoice that you are neurotic. I too have some neuroses. But one should treat the neuroses well. Give them some mate (herbal drink) every day. One of the neuroses is that I am too attached to life.”
He said that he received a first draft of a forthcoming encyclical on ecology before he left for South Korea last week, but warned: “It’s as thick as this. I’d say it’s about a third longer than Evangelii Gaudium.”
Above: Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard flight from Seoul to Rome. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring