In an interview published on Friday 18 November by the Italian newspaper ‘La Stampa’, Pope Francis addresses a wide range of topics, including the ongoing war ravaging Ukraine, his upcoming visit to Asti and his nearly ten-year pontificate.
Peace between Russia and Ukraine “is still possible” and the Holy See is willing to do everything it can to put an end to the armed conflict. Pope Francis reiterated this hope in a wide-ranging interview granted to Domenico Agasso of the Italian newspaper ‘La Stampa‘ in which he also speaks about his upcoming visit to Asti, in the Piedmont Region, and reflects on his nearly ten-year pontificate.
The absurdity of war
In the interview published on Friday, Pope Francis insists on the absurdity of war, noting that humanity has not learned the lessons of the previous two World Wars. “Knowing that behind all these tragedies there are hunger for power and arms trafficking raises anger and sadness”, he said.
“Three world wars in one century! And we won’t learn!”
The Holy See’s efforts for a lasting peace
Asked about the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts to bring about a ceasefire and peace negotiations, Pope Francis said the Holy See constantly follows the situation and “is willing to do everything possible to mediate and put an end to the conflict”, while it continues to offer humanitarian relief to suffering Ukrainians and support to prisoners of war.
The Pope said he has not given up hope on a lasting peace and reconciliation between Moscow and Kyiv. However, he stressed, “everyone must commit themselves to demilitarize their hearts, starting from their own, and then to defuse and disarm violence”.
“We must all be pacifists, wanting peace, not just a truce that maybe only serves to rearm, but a true peace, which is the fruit of dialogue. Peace is not achieved with weapons, because they don’t defeat hatred and the thirst for domination, which will re-emerge, perhaps in other ways.”
The dangers of nationalism
Referring to the global phenomenon of resurging nationalism and populism, Pope Francis also warned again on the dangers of all “-isms”, because, he said, “they hypocritically sow social and political wickedness”.
The visit to Asti
In the interview, the Holy Father also spoke about his upcoming visit to the city of Asti, in Northern Italy, where his parents came from. During the visit, which will take place from 19-20 November, he will meet up privately with his relatives for the occasion of his cousin’s 90th birthday, and will celebrate Mass for the diocesan community.
The Pope said he is still very close to his family of origin and has strong affective ties with Piedmont, thanks to his grandmother Rosa, who also taught him poems of local poet Nino Costa in the Piedmontese dialect, which he still cherishes.
In this regard he once again emphasized the importance of family roots, saying they are fundamental both from a cultural and a familiar point of view. As he has repeated on many occasions, the Pope insisted that young people should always talk to their grandparents as much as possible
“It is essential to keep the relationship with our roots alive, for our cultural and social growth, and also for the development of our personality”
Pope Francis also repeated that young people should continue to dream, even in the face of a gloomy and uncertain future like today.
Addressing the “scandal” of hunger
Asked about his favourite Piedmontese dish, Pope Francis also highlighted the urgent need to address the “scandal” of hunger, affecting millions of people and children across the world: “This – he said – must be a priority for everyone: for those lucky enough to have food in their daily lives must not waste it by teaching it to children as well; and the international community that is called to work to truly eliminate hunger which is a disgrace as well as a crime”.
I have always been happy in the places where the Lord has sent me
Pope Francis was further asked about his thoughts on his pontificate as he approaches the tenth anniversary of his election in 2023. “Thanks to my vocation, I have always been happy in the places where the Lord has placed and sent me”, he answered. “But not because ‘I won something’, I won nothing… this is a service, and the Church asked me for it”.
The Holy Father further highlighted the importance for him of the Ignatian practice of daily examination of conscience, which helps us understand our good and bad deeds, and of listening to people, especially the “little ones”: children, the elderly and the poor.
As he approaches his 86th birthday in December, Pope Francis said that at his age he “feels tranquility, great peace, genuine joy, and religiosity.” On a personal note, he said he finds God in prayer, in celebrating the Eucharist and in all the people he meets.
Not forgetting the poor
During the interview, Pope Francis was also asked about the upcoming official visit to the Vatican of the new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the first female PM of Italy. While reiterating that he doesn’t interfere in specific Italian political issues, and that the new government was voted by the people, the Pope said he asks leaders of all countries not to forget the poor.
With thanks to Vatican News and Lisa Zengarini, where this article originally appeared.