His now traditional inflight press conference was cut short by turbulence, but Pope Francis managed to answer numerous questions on current issues, including climate change, immigration, and the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
The first questions were asked by Colombian reporters, regarding the Apostolic Visit. Asked what concrete steps Colombians can take to overcome the divisions and hatred caused by decades of civil war, Pope Francis responded that he would like to see Colombians take as a motto “Let’s take the second step” – a reference to the motto of the Visit, “Let’s take the first step.” The “sins” that occurred during years of conflict causes souls to become sick – but this illness is not culpable; it is caused by “ugly sins.” But there are nonetheless steps toward peace.
Pope Francis was asked about corruption, which can be even more devastating to a country than outright violence. The Holy Father noted that he had touched on this topic numerous times. God never tires of forgiving sin, he said, but corruption is a kind of sin with a difference: the corrupt person tires of seeking forgiveness, and even forgets how to ask for forgiveness. “He is not able to ask for forgiveness,” the Pope said, and for this reason, it is very difficult to help someone who is corrupt. But, he said, “God can do it. I pray for that.”
With regard to the peace process, Pope Francis said in different situations many groups must be integrated. He said that the technical or political aspects of the peace process are necessary, but they will only go so far. If the people do not embrace peace, political steps can only go so far. It is only when the people “take peace” in their hands, that it can end well.
The Pontiff also responded to questions about climate change, especially with regard to politicians and others who refuse to collaborate with other nations because they deny that climate change is caused by humans. Pope Francis responded that such people must go to the scientists, who speak clearly and precisely. He worried about the consequences of failing to change our lifestyles: “If we do not turn back, we will go down,” he said. He emphasized that everyone has a moral responsibility to respond to the “very serious” issue of climate change, not only politicians, but each one of us. If someone has doubts about man-made climate change, they must go to the scientists, and then make their decisions: “And history will judge the decisions.”
US IMMIGRATION POLICY
Speaking of the recent decision by the U.S. President Donald Trump to rescind an Obama administration immigration policy known as DACA(Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Pope Francis said he had not read enough to express an opinion. He said, though, that separating young people from their families is not good either for the young or for the family. Noting that the policy was crafted by the executive branch, rather than through the legislature, the Pope said there may be hope that it could be considered anew. He said Trump presents himself as pro-life, “and if he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that the family is the cradle of life, and that he must defend the unity” (of the family). He spoke of the need young people have of roots, and noted that he had spoken about the importance of dialogue between young people and the elderly. “Young people need to find their roots again,” he said. “Anything that goes against the roots,” he continued, “steals their hope.”
Reminded that the new American policy meant young people might be deported from the United States, Pope Francis said this would mean losing roots; “and this is a problem.” He insisted, though, that he did not want to express his opinion because he prefers not to speak on issues he has not studied. But he called attention to the suffering Mexico has endured, and called for prayer for that country.
IMMIGRATION IN EUROPE
Pope Francis was also asked about migration policy in Italy, and responded by expressing his gratitude for Italy and Greece, which have “opened their hearts” to migrants. But, he said, this is not enough. God commands us to welcome migrants, but governments have a duty to face the problem of migration with “prudence.” Migrants, he said, must not only be welcomed, but integrated. He suggested that countries might be only be able to accept a certain number of migrants before there is a danger of “non-integration.” He also spoke about the humanitarian problems that are associated with mass migration, and the need to resolve the root causes of the immigration crisis.
Finally the Holy Father spoke about the situation in Venezuela. “I believe that the Holy See has spoken strongly and clearly” about the crisis, he said. The problem is a very difficult one, he continued, saying that the biggest concern is the humanitarian crisis, “which we must help to resolve in any case.”