On the flight to Manila today, Pope Francis gave another one of his signature free-wheeling press conferences in which he says a series of interesting things. He spoke about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, religious liberty, freedom of speech, ecumenism, his long-awaited encyclical on the environment, the next saint he'll make, and what he'd do to someone who spoke ill of his mom. Here are a few notable bits, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter and the Boston Globe/Crux:
“One cannot make war [or] kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God. To kill in the name of God is an aberration.” Yet, “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith," Francis continued. “Every religion has its dignity…and I cannot make fun of it. In freedom of expression there are limits, like in regard to my mom." If a friend "says a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose," he explained. "That’s normal.”
Francis also spoke about threats to his own safety from Islamic extremists, admitting that he prays for God to spare him pain ("I am not courageous when confronted with pain"). "The best way to respond is always meekness." Still, he is "worried about the faithful" who visit him during large public gatherings. "I have spoken with Vatican security."
Francis also revealed that he plans to canonize Junipero Serra, eighteenth-century missionary to the American West Coast, during his visit to the United States in September. (Read Patrick Jordan's review of two books about Serra here.)
Look for the pope's encyclical on the environment to drop some time this summer. He's aiming to have the text finalized by March, but it will take some time to translate it into Marxism--I mean other languages. That will be well in advance of the next UN climate-change meeting, which is supposed to convene in Paris in late autumn. Francis criticized the previous meeting in Peru for lacking courage. On the question of humanity's responsibility for climate change, Francis said: "We have taken possession of nature and Mother Earth....I believe that man has gone a bit too far. Thank God that today, many, many people are talking about it."
The pope was asked what he made of those who critiized him for visiting a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, and those who consider Buddhism "of the devil." Here's how NCR's Vatican correspondent Joshua McElwee reported Francis's response:
Equating such a belief with pre-Second Vatican Council teachings regarding Protestant Christians, Francis said when he was a child, "all the Protestants were going to hell. All of them."
Francis said his first experience of ecumenism occurred when he was 4 or 5 years old, walking down the street with his grandmother. They saw two women from the Salvation Army wearing hats similar to those worn by some women religious.
"I asked if they were sisters," he said. "My grandmother said, 'No, but they’re good.' "
"I believe the church has grown a lot in respect, in interreligious encounter, in the way we use words," Francis said. "There have been dark times in the history of the church, and we have to say that with shame."
For more on Francis's in-flight press conference, be sure to read the rest of McElwee's report.