Pope Francis in-flight press conference from Malta | National Catholic Registry
Pope Francis returned to Rome on Sunday after a two-day trip to Malta. During the Visit from April 2 to 3, he spoke to civil authorities, visited a Marian shrine and the site where tradition has it that Saint Paul stayed in AD 60, celebrated an open-air mass and met migrants and refugees.
Please read CNA’s full transcript of Pope Francis’ press conference on the Malta flight below.
Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office: Thank you, Holiness, for these two days with you. As you have seen, on this trip with you these days, there are about 70 journalists, three of them from Malta. And we can start with a question from Maltese journalist Andrea Rossitto, Maltese TV. But first, I note that the time is quite short, because the plane will start landing shortly, so we have time to talk with the Holy Father until about 8 am. He needs time to take photos with the crew, then time to land. So maybe you want to say something?
Pope Francis: I’m sorry it’s so short, because we’re supposed to land at 8:15 am, and we should be taking photos with the crew; for this reason, we will end at 8:05. Thank you for your collaboration.
Browned: And up to you for availability.
Andrea Rossitto, Television Malta: Thank you, Holiness, for your presence in Malta. My question relates to the surprise this morning, in the chapel where Saint George Preca is buried: What motivated you to make this surprise for the Maltese? What will you remember from this visit to Malta? Then, your health: how are you? We saw that this very intense trip went well. Thank you so much.
Pope Francis: My health is a little capricious. I have this knee problem that brings out walking problems. It’s a bit boring, but it gets better; at least I can walk. Until a week ago, I couldn’t do it. It’s a slow thing this winter. … At this age, you don’t know how the match will end. Hope it goes well.
About Malta, I am happy with the visit. I saw the reality of Malta, the great enthusiasm of the people, both in Gozo and in Malta: great enthusiasm in the streets. I was amazed. [The trip] was a bit short. I saw the problem, one of the problems for you: the problem of migrants is very serious, because Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain, Italy are the countries closest to Africa and the Middle East, and migrants arrive here and are always welcome. The problem, that each government should say how many migrants it can normally receive in order to live with dignity, this requires an agreement with the countries of Europe, and that few of them are ready to accept migrants. Let’s not forget that Europe was made by migrants; but at least don’t leave all the burden on those neighboring countries. The important thing is not to leave these countries alone.
Today I was at the reception center for migrants. The things I heard there, they are terrible, the suffering of those who arrived there, and then the lager [camps]; there are lagers on the Libyan coast. The “stations of the cross” of these people seems criminal. I have heard testimonies of suffering. It is a problem that affects us all. The way Europe makes room, with great generosity, for Ukrainians, opens the door to Ukrainians, it even does so to those who come from the Mediterranean. This is a point that ended my visit [and] touched me so much. I felt their suffering, which is more or less what I told you about in this little book that came out… Hermanito; in Spanish “The little brother” — the suffering of these people: One person who spoke today had to pay four times. I ask you to think about this.
Jordi Barcelò, National Radio of Spain: Good evening, Holiness. I will read [the question] because my Italian is still not very good. On the flight that took us to Malta, you said that a visit to kyiv is on the table. And again in Malta, you have repeatedly referred to your closeness to the Ukrainian people. On Friday in Rome, the Polish president left the door open for a visit to the Polish border. Today we were very touched by the images arriving from Bucha, a town near kyiv, abandoned by the Russian army, where Ukrainians found dozens of corpses thrown to the ground, some holding hands, like s they had been executed. It seems today that your presence in this area is increasingly necessary. Do you think a trip like this is feasible, and what would be the conditions that would need to be in place for you to go? Thank you.
Pope Francis: Thank you for telling me this news today that I did not know. War is always a cruelty, an inhuman thing that goes against the human spirit — I don’t say Christian; Human. Cain’s spirit would have gone there. I am ready to do everything that can be done, and the Holy See, especially the diplomatic part – Cardinal Parolin, Mgr. Gallagher — do everything, everything. You can’t publish everything they do, out of caution, out of confidentiality, but we’re on the edge of the job. A trip is one of the possibilities. There are two possible visits: one requested by the President of Poland, to send Cardinal Krajewski to visit the Ukrainians who are received in Poland. He has already gone twice to get two ambulances, and he stayed there with them, but he will do it again; he is ready to do so. The other trip that someone asked me about – more than one person – I said honestly, if I was planning on going, and said availability is still there. there is no “no”. First of all, I’m available. And what to do [I] thinking about a trip…the question was: “We heard you were thinking about a visit to Ukraine?” And I said: it’s on the table. It’s there as one of the proposals that came in, but I don’t know if it can be done… and if doing it will be for the best, or if it will be helpful and I should do it. It’s all in the air, isn’t it? Then for a long time it was thought of a meeting with Patriarch Cyril. This is under development; the Middle East is considered [as the location]. These are things as they are right now.
Gerry O’Connell, America magazine: Holy Father, several times during this trip you spoke of the war [in Ukraine]. The question that many are asking is whether, since the beginning of the war, you have spoken with President Putin; and if not, what would you say to him today?
Pope Francis: The things I said to the authorities on each side are public. None of the things I said are confidential to me. When I spoke with the patriarch [Kirill], he then made a good statement about what we said to each other. I spoke to the President of Russia at the end of the year, when he called me to wish me a happy birthday. We talked. I spoke twice to the President of Ukraine. Then on the first day of the war I thought I should go to the Russian Embassy [to the Holy See] speak with the ambassador, who is the representative of the people, ask questions and share my feelings about the situation. These were official communications that I had. With Russia, I did it through the ambassador. I also spoke with the Major Archbishop of kyiv, Msgr. Shevchuk. Every two or three days, with regularity, I spoke with one of you, Elisabetta Piqué [Vatican journalist for La Nación], who is now in Odessa but was in Lviv when we spoke. She tells me how things are. I also spoke regularly with the rector of the seminary. But as I said, I am also in contact with one of you. Speaking of which, I wanted to offer my condolences for your colleagues who have passed away. Whichever side they are, it doesn’t matter. But your work is a work for the common good. And these [journalists] fallen in the service of the common good, of information. Let’s not forget them. They were brave and I pray for them that the Lord will reward them for their work. These are the communications we have had so far.
O’Connell: But what would be your message for Putin if you had the chance [to speak to him]?
Pope Francis: The messages I gave to all authorities are the ones I gave publicly. I don’t do double talk. I always say the same thing. I think in your question there is also a doubt about just and unjust wars. Every war comes from injustice, always. Because this is the method of warfare, there is no peace tactic; for example, investing in the purchase of weapons. They say, “But we have to defend ourselves. This is the strategy of war. When World War II ended, everyone breathed, “never war” and peace. A wave of work for peace began, even with the good will not to give weapons, atomic weapons at that time, for peace, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was great goodwill. Seventy years later, we have forgotten all that. That’s the strategy imposed by war. There was so much hope in the work of the United Nations then. But the tactics of war have again imposed themselves. We can’t think of any other strategy; we are not used to thinking about the strategy of peace. There were great men like Gandhi and others that I mention at the end of the encyclical Fratelli Tutti who fought for the strategy of peace. But we are stubborn like humanity: We are in love with wars, with the spirit of Cain. It is not by chance, at the beginning of the Bible, that there is this problem: the “Cainian” spirit of killing instead of the spirit of peace. “Father, I can’t.”
I’ll tell you something personal: in 2014, when I was [at the military cemetery] in Redipuglia and I saw the names of these boys [who died], I cried. Really, I cried with bitterness. Then, a year or two later, for the Day of the Dead, I went to celebrate [Mass] in Anzio, and I saw the names of young people [soldiers] fallen there – all young men – and there too I cried. Really. We must mourn over the graves.
There is something that I respect, because it is a political problem. When there is a commemoration of the Normandy landings, the heads of government come together to commemorate it. But I don’t remember anyone talking about the 30,000 young men left on the beach. Youth doesn’t matter. It makes me think. I am saddened. We don’t learn. May the Lord have mercy on us, on all of us. We are all at fault.