(Worthy News) — Pope Francis warned of the dangers of fundamentalism, the rise of Christian persecution, and the role of the Catholic Church during the holocaust in an interview with the Spanish language magazine "La Vangurdia."
The following are highlighted translated transcripts of the interview.
Rise of Christian Persecution
“The persecuted Christians are a concern that touches me very deeply as a pastor. I know a lot about persecutions but it doesn’t seem prudent to talk about them here so I don’t offend anyone. But in some places it is prohibited to have a Bible or teach the catechism or wear a cross … What I would like to be clear on is one thing, I am convinced that the persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church. Today there are more Christian martyrs than in that period. And, it's not because of fantasy, it’s because of the numbers."
Violence in the name of God dominates the Middle East.
"It's a contradiction. Violence in the name of God does not correspond with our time. It's something ancient. With historical perspective, one has to say that Christians, at times, have practiced it. When I think of the Thirty Years War, there was violence in the name of God. Today it is unimaginable, right? We arrive, sometimes, by way of religion to very serious, very grave contradictions. Fundamentalism, for example. The three religions, we have our fundamentalist groups, small in relation to all the rest."
And, what do you think about fundamentalism?
A fundamentalist group, although it may not kill anyone, although it may not strike anyone, is violent. The mental structure of fundamentalists is violence in the name of God.
You told me a year ago that "within every Christian there is a Jew."
"Perhaps it would be more correct to say "you cannot live your Christianity, you cannot be a real Christian, if you do not recognize your Jewish roots." I don’t speak of Jewish in the sense of the Semitic race but rather in the religious sense. I think that inter-religious dialogue needs to deepen in this, in Christianity's Jewish root and in the Christian flowering of Judaism. I understand it is a challenge, a hot potato, but it can be done as brothers. I pray every day the divine office every day with the Psalms of David. We do the 150 psalms in one week. My prayer is Jewish and I have the Eucharist, which is Christian."
How do you see anti-Semitism?
"I cannot explain why it happens, but I think it is very linked, in general, and without it being a fixed rule, to the right wing. Antisemitism usually nests better in right-wing political tendencies that in the left, right? And it still continues (like this). We even have those who deny the holocaust, which is crazy."
One of your projects is to open the Vatican archives on the Holocaust.
They will bring a lot of light.
Does it worry you something could be discovered?
"What worries me regarding this subject is the figure of Pius XII, the Pope that led the Church during World War II. They have said all sorts of things about poor Pius XII. But we need to remember that before he was seen as the great defender of the Jews. He hid many in convents in Rome and in other Italian cities, and also in the residence of Castel Gandolfo. Forty-two babies, children of Jews and other persecuted who sought refuge there were born there, in the Pope’s room, in his own bed. I don't want to say that Pius XII did not make any mistakes – I myself make many – but one needs to see his role in the context of the time. For example, was it better for him not to speak so that more Jews would not be killed or for him to speak? I also want to say that sometimes I get "existential hives" when I see that everyone takes it out against the Church and Pius XII, and they forget the great powers. Did you know that they knew the rail network of the Nazis perfectly well to take the Jews to concentration camps? They had the pictures. But they did not bomb those railroad tracks. Why? It would be best if we spoke a bit about everything."
You have also made a great effort to become closer to the Orthodox Church.
"The invitation to Jerusalem from my brother Bartholomew was to commemorate the encounter between Paul VI and Athenagoras I 50 years ago. It was an encounter after more than a thousand years of separation. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has made efforts to become closer and the Orthodox Church has done the same. Some orthodox churches are closer than others. I wanted Bartholomew to be with me in Jerusalem and there emerged the plan to also come to the Vatican to pray. For him it was a risky step because they can throw it in his face, but this gesture of humility needed to be extended, and for us it's necessary because it's not conceivable that we Christians are divided, it's a historical sin that we have to repair."