News & Commentary

Pope speaks on U.S. gun violence, abortion debate, retirement rumors

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. President Joe Biden should consult with his bishop or parish priest about his stance on abortion, Pope Francis said, adding that the primary concern of bishops should be pastoral care.

In an interview that aired in the United States July 11 on Univision, the Spanish-language network, the pope was asked his opinion about President Biden’s continuing support for abortion.

“I leave it to his conscience and that he speaks to his bishop, his pastor, his parish priest about that inconsistency,” he said.

However, repeating what he has said before about bishops declaring a politician unfit to receive Communion, Pope Francis said bishops must focus on the pastoral care of their people rather than on public condemnation.

“When a shepherd leaves pastoral care aside, or does not have a mature pastoral care, it creates a political problem. That is where all the confusion lies,” the pope said.

The pope was also asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Rome and her reportedly receiving Communion at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica despite being barred from receiving in her home Archdiocese of San Francisco.

In May, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco declared that Pelosi was not “to be admitted” to Communion unless and until she publicly repudiates “support for abortion ‘rights'” and goes to confession and receives absolution “for her cooperation in this evil.”

When asked why Pelosi was allowed to receive Communion at the Vatican, the pope noted that she continues to receive the Eucharist in Washington, D.C., as well.

“The pastoral situation is not clearly explained,” he said. “And I would say what I said at the beginning: When the pastoral dimension is lost, it creates a political problem. And it is not easy. But for me that is the great answer: When the pastoral dimension is lost, it creates a political problem.”

Pope Francis also spoke about gun violence and the growing trend of mass shootings in the United States, particularly the most recent shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Highland Park, Illinois.

The phenomenon of mass shootings “is a grave social problem,” he said, and it would be important to look into the “aggressiveness” of those who “opt to destroy and not build.”

“What is happening in the education of these people, what is happening in their way of life, what is happening in their personal history of human psychological development that makes these people go on attacking and destroying?” the pope asked.

When asked whether guns or the devil were at fault for such violence, the pope said that “a war of this kind is certainly never inspired by the Holy Spirit” because the desire “to destroy humanity itself is something diabolical.”

Nevertheless, the pope said the solution to preventing mass shootings cannot be achieved by “looking at the effects; we must look at the causes.”

“Why are there young people who are so unsatisfied that they can feel fulfilled only by destroying. And even in the most recent shootings that have occurred all over, they (the shooters) have said, ‘I had to do it,'” he said.

The world, he added, “is becoming more and more aggressive” due to the current climate of war and the selling of weapons.

“In the United States, that is one of the problems that is concerning the authorities: how to monitor, how to regulate the sale of weapons. That is what provokes this life of aggression. It does us no good and it destroys,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also addressed rumors about his possible retirement, rumors that grew after the Vatican announced that in late August, he plans to visit the burial place of Pope Celestine V, the first pope to resign.

Once again, the pope confirmed that “I have never thought about retiring, even to this day.”

“Truly, in this moment, I don’t feel that the Lord is asking me” to retire, he said. “When I feel that he asks me, then yes. The knee problem did scare me, in the sense that I had to start thinking a bit about my future. Thank God it is getting better.”

However, the pope said that if he were to retire, he would not stay at the Vatican nor go back to his native Argentina.

“No. I am a bishop of Rome. In that case, I would be the emeritus bishop of Rome,” he said.

“Would you go to St. John Lateran?” asked Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki. “Perhaps. I would go to a church and do confessions,” he replied.

The pope explained that before his election in 2013, he had made plans to retire as archbishop of Buenos Aires at the end of the year and had already chosen a room at a retirement home for priests in the city.

The residence, he said, was five blocks from a parish, “my parish — where I would go to as a child — and there are a lot of confessions. And it was half a block away from a big hospital,” he said.

“Between doing confessions there (at the parish) and visiting the sick, that’s where I saw my apostolate, my work; to be at the service of people where needed,” Pope Francis added. “If I survive, I would like something like that.”

Reminded that he had been wrong when he’d said he expected to have a short pontificate, the pope replied, “The same thing used to happen to me whenever I bought a lottery ticket!”

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service



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