Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sept. 18, 2013.
(Photo: Riccardo De Luca, AP)
In his first lengthy papal interview, Pope Francis says bluntly that the church has been too focused on the issues of abortion, gay marriage and contraception and suggests it find a "new balance" to deliver its message.
The interview was conducted last month over three meetings by the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal.
It was carried out in Italian on behalf of La Civiltà Cattolica, America and other major Jesuit journals.America arranged for the translation into English.
In a preface to the interview, Spadaro said talking with Pope Francis "is a kind of volcanic flow of ideas that are bound up with each other."
"Even taking notes gives me an uncomfortable feeling, as if I were trying to suppress a surging spring of dialogue," Spadaro writes.
The pope touches on a wide range of issues, from life as a Jesuit to his favorite films. He does not suggest any changes in church doctrine, but is very pointed in remarks on how the church should conduct its teaching.
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," Pope Francis said. "This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
IN FULL: The pope speaks to the magazine America.
"The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent," he said. "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
He said the church should delivery its message in a "missionary style."
"We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel," the pope says. "The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow."
On other points:
• The role of the church: "The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle."
• Homosexuality: "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person."
• Women in the church: "The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church."
• Prayer: In the evening then, between 7 and 8 o'clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day.
• Film: "La Strada, by Fellini, is the movie that perhaps I loved the most. I identify with this movie, in which there is an implicit reference to St. Francis. I also believe that I watched all of the Italian movies with Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi when I was between 10 and 12 years old.
• On preferring less austere trappings: "I was always looking for a community. I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community."