A pastoral Pope

The Pope’s interview with Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ in quotes

Six months into his papacy, Francis set out his vision for the Church and his priorities as Pope in a lengthy and remarkably blunt interview with La Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. It was published simultaneously in September by Jesuit journals in 16 countries, including America magazine.

The Irish Catholic published the interview, which was conducted by Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, in full, in the September 26, 2013 issue.

The following is a selection of quotations from the now infamous interview.

Pope Francis

I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.

My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative… but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.

Pastoral outreach

I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.

In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their peopleís night, into the darkness, but without getting lost.


The structural and organisational reforms are secondaryóthat is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude.

Synodality should be lived at various levels. Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic.


Instead of being just a Church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.

We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner.

The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lordís mercy motivates us to do better.

Church teaching

The Church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible… The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The Churchís pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently… We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.


The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind.

Role of women

The Church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the Church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the Church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the Church.