"This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal."

Last week, Pope Francis sat for another interview--this time with the atheist co-founder of La Repubblica, Eugeio Scalfari, whom the pope recently replied to in writing. The headline of the conversation, "The Pope: How the Church Will Change" (not "I Will Change the Church"), is obviously pinned to today's opening of the Council of Cardinals, and for good reason. Here are some highlights:

"The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old."

"Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs."

"That is the purpose of our mission: to identify the material and immaterial needs of the people and try to meet them as we can."

"Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."

The curia is "Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I'll do everything I can to change it."

"When I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical."

"Vatican II, inspired by Pope Paul VI and John, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do something."

"The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers. Not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal. When Cardinal Martini talked about focusing on the councils and synods he knew how long and difficult it would be to go in that direction. Gently, but firmly and tenaciously."

"I have already said that the Church will not deal with politics.... Politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion."

"We need great freedom, no discrimination, no demagoguery and a lot of love. We need rules of conduct and also, if necessary, direct intervention from the state to correct the more intolerable inequalities."

Read the whole thing here. And don't miss the conclusion, in which the pope promises Scalfari that next time "we will also discuss the role of women in the Church. Remember that the Church is feminine."

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads