During a dialogue with journalists on the return flight from Malta, František answered questions about the possibility of a trip to kyiv and the horrors of war. “We don’t learn! May God have mercy on us, on all of us, we are all guilty! Pope Francis met with journalists on the return flight from Malta and, after recalling what interested him on the island, returned to the subject of the war.
We bring you a full transcript of the Pope’s conversation with reporters on board the return flight from Malta to Rome.
Andrea Rossitto (TVM): Thank you for your presence in Malta. My question concerns this morning’s surprise in the chapel where Saint Giorgio Preca is buried: What prompted you to surprise the Maltese, and what will you remember from your visit to Malta? And how is your health? We have seen you during this very intense journey. We can say that it went well. Thanks very much.
My health is a bit fickle, I have a knee problem that hurts me to walk, it’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s better, at least I can walk. I couldn’t do anything two weeks ago. It’s slow, we’ll see if it comes back, but there’s a doubt that at this age you don’t know how the game will end, I hope it goes well.
And then in Malta: I was satisfied with the visit, I saw the realities of Malta, I saw the impressive enthusiasm of the people, both in Gozo and in Valletta and elsewhere. The great enthusiasm in the streets amazed me, it was a bit short – I saw the problem with you – and also one of the problems is migration.
The problem of migrants is serious, because Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Spain, these are the countries closest to Africa and the Middle East, and they land here, they come here, migrants must always be accepted! The problem is that each government has to say how many can normally accept that they stay. This requires an agreement with European countries, and not all are willing to accept migrants. We forget that Europe was created by migrants, don’t we? But that’s how it is, but at least don’t leave all the burden on the neighboring countries, which are so generous, and Malta is one of them.
I was in a reception center for migrants today, and what I heard there is terrible, the suffering of these people when they arrive here, and then these camps, there are camps which are on the Libyan coast when they send them back. Sounds criminal, doesn’t it?
That’s why I think it’s a problem that touches the heart of all of us. Just as Europe generously accepts Ukrainians who knock on its door, it generously accepts those who come from the Mediterranean.
At this point I finished the visit and I was very touched because I heard testimonies, sufferings that more or less resemble the ones that I think you are in this little book “Hermanito”, in Spanish for “little brother”, and all Via Crucis these folks. Whoever spoke today had to pay four times… I ask you to think about it. Thank you
Jorge Antelo Barcia (ARN): On the flight to Malta, you told your colleague that a trip to kyiv was planned, and in Malta you mentioned your closeness to the Ukrainian people, and on Friday in Rome, the Polish President offered you an open door for you go to Poland border. Today we were interested in images from the village of Bucha near kyiv, which was abandoned by the Russian army and where Ukrainians found dozens of corpses thrown into the street, some with their hands tied, like ” executed”. Today, your presence seems more and more necessary. Do you think such a path is feasible? And what conditions would you have to meet to get there?
Thank you for sending me this message, which I did not know yet. War is always a cruelty, an inhuman thing that goes against the human, I’m not saying Christian, human spirit. It’s the spirit of Cain, the spirit of “Cain”…
I am ready to do whatever it takes, and the Holy See, in particular the diplomatic section, Cardinal Parolin and Monsignor Gallagher, are doing everything but everything – we cannot divulge with caution, for reasons of confidentiality, everything what they are doing – but we are at the limit of our work.
There is also a way; there are two possible ways: one was requested by the Polish president to send Cardinal Krajewski to visit the Ukrainians who had been received in Poland; he had been there twice, brought two ambulances and stayed with them, but he would do it again, he was ready to do it. On the second trip, which someone asked me more than once, I honestly said that I intended to go, that I was always available. There are none, I am available.
What do you think of the trip – that was the question: “We heard that you are planning a trip to Ukraine.” I said it’s on the table, it’s there as one of the suggestions that have been made, but I don’t know if it’s possible, if it’s appropriate and if it would be better. So if it should be done and if I should be done, it’s all in the air.
Then a meeting with Patriarch Kirill was considered for some time. We are working on it. We are thinking of doing it in the Middle East. It is at this stage.
Gerry O’Connell (America Magazine): You spoke about the war several times during this trip. Everyone wonders if you’ve spoken to President Putin since the start of the war, and if not, what would you say to him today?
The things I said to the authorities on both sides are public. Nothing I said is confidential to me. When I spoke to the Patriarch, he then described well what we had said.
At the end of the year, the Russian president called me when he called me to wish me all the best. The President of Ukraine spoke to me twice.
On the first day of the war, I thought I should go to the Russian embassy and talk to the ambassador, who is the representative of the people, ask him questions and give him his impressions.
These are the official contacts I had. I did it with Russia through the embassy. I also heard from the Archbishop of kyiv, Monsignor Schevchuck.
So one of you, Elisabetta Pique, who was in Lviv and is now in Odessa, will call me regularly every two or three days. He tells me how things are. I also spoke with the rector of the seminary. But as I said, I am also in contact with one of you.
Speaking of which, I would like to express my condolences to your colleagues who have passed away. It doesn’t matter which side they were on. Your work is for the common good and they have fallen in service of the common good. For information.
Let’s not forget them. They were brave and I pray for them that the Lord rewards their work.
These are the contacts so far.
But what message would Putin have if he had the opportunity (to talk to him)?
I forwarded the reports that I forwarded to all the institutions in public. I say nothing in two ways. I always do the same.
I think there is also a doubt about just and unjust wars in your question. All wars are born of injustice, always. Because there is a model of war. But we have no model of peace.
For example, investing in weapons. They say, “But we need them to be able to defend ourselves. This is the model of war. When World War II ended, everyone wanted “never war” and peace. The wave of work for peace also started with the good will not to give weapons, then atomic, for peace after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a great good will.
Seventy years later, we have forgotten everything. This is how the model of war is applied. At that time, so many hopes were placed in the work of the UN. However, the war model prevailed. We cannot think of another formula, we are no longer used to thinking of a formula for peace.
There were wonderful people like Ghandi and others, whom I mention at the end of the encyclical Fratelli tutti, who bet on the idea of peace. But we, as humanity, are stubborn. We are in love with wars, in the spirit of Cain. It is no coincidence that this problem appears at the beginning of the Bible: the “Cain” spirit of killing instead of the spirit of peace. Father, it’s not working! Let me tell you something personal: when I went to Redipuglia in 2014 and saw the names of the boys, I cried. I really cried with bitterness. A year or two later, on the Day of the Dead, I went to Anzio and saw the names of the boys who had fallen there. All the young men and I cried there too. Really. We must mourn over the graves.
I respect that because it is a political issue. During the commemorative landing in Normandy, the prime ministers meet. But I don’t remember anyone talking about the 30,000 young people who stayed on those beaches. Young people don’t care. It makes me think. I feel sad.
We don’t learn. May God have mercy on us, on all of us. We are all guilty!
Translated by Petr Vacik