Aboard the papal plane, Jan 19, 2015 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News)  –  Speaking to journalists aboard the Jan. 19 flight from Manila to Rome concluding his Asian pilgrimage, Pope Francis discussed what he learned from Filipinos; his upcoming trip to Philadelphia and other U.S. cities; how one can be a responsible parent without resorting to birth control; the colonization of gender ideology; and the possibility of a papal trip to Africa.

Below is a full transcript of the discussion between Pope Francis and journalists during Monday’s flight:

Pope Francis: First of all I greet you: good day, thank you for your work. It was challenging, and as we say in Spanish, “pasado per agua” (it rained on the parade). It is beautiful, and thank you very much for what you have done.

POPE FRANCIS - inflight interview

Kara David (GMA Network): Good day Holy Father. Sorry, I will speak in English. Thank you very much for visiting our country and for giving so much hope to the Filipinos. We would like you to come back to our country. My question is: the Filipinos have learned a lot from listening to your messages. Is there something the Holy Father has learned from the Filipinos, from your encounter with us?

Pope Francis: The gestures! The gestures moved me. They are not protocol gestures, they are good gestures, felt gestures, gestures of the heart. Some almost make one weep. There’s everything there: faith, love, the family, the illusions, the future. That gesture of the fathers who think of their children so that the Pope will bless them. Not the gesture of one unique father. There were many who thought of their children when we passed by on the road. A gesture which in other places one does not see, as if they say ‘this is my treasure, this is my future, this is my love, for this one it’s worth working, for this one it’s worth suffering’. A gesture that is original, but born from the heart.

A second gesture that struck me very much is an enthusiasm that is not feigned, a joy, a happiness, a capacity to celebrate.  Even under the rain, one of the masters of ceremonies told me that he was edified because those who were serving in Tacloban, under the rain, never lost the smile. It’s the joy,  not feigned joy.  It wasn’t a false smile. No, no!  It was a smile that just came out, and behind that smile there is a normal life, there are pains, problems.

Then there were the gestures of the mothers who brought their sick children. Indeed mothers in general bring them there. But usually mothers did not lift the children up so much, only up to here. The dads do, one sees them. Here dad! Then many disabled children, with disabilities that make some impression; they did not hide the children, they brought them to the Pope so that he would bless them: ‘This is my child, he is this way, but he is mine’.  All mothers know this, they do this. But it’s the way they did this that struck me. The gesture of fatherhood, of motherhood, of enthusiasm, of joy.

There’s a word that’s difficult for us to understand because it has been vulgarized too much, too badly used, too badly understood, but it’s a word that has substance: resignation. A people who knows how to suffer, and is capable of rising up. Yesterday, I was edified at the talk I had with the father of Kristel, the young woman volunteer who died in Tacloban.  He said she died in service, he was seeking words to confirm himself to this situation, to accept it. A people that knows how to suffer, that’s what I saw and how I interpreted the gestures.

Jean Louis de la Vessiere – France Press: Holy Father, you have now gone twice to Asia. The Catholics of Africa have yet to receive a visit from you.  You know that from South Africa to Nigeria to Uganda many faithful who suffer from poverty, war, Islamic fundamentalism, hope you will visit this year. So I would like to ask you, when and where are thinking of going?

Pope Francis: I will respond hypothetically. The plan is to go to the Central African Republic and Uganda, these two, this year. I think that this will be towards the end of the year, because of the weather, no? They have to calculate when there won’t be rains, when there won’t be bad weather. This trip is a bit overdue, because there was the Ebola problem. It is a big responsibility to hold big gatherings, because of the possible contagion, no?  But these countries there is no problem. These two are hypothetical, but it will be this year.

Fr. Lombardi: Now we give the floor to our friend Izzo Salvatore, from the Italian information agency AGI.

Izzo Salvatore: Holy Father, in Manila we were in a very beautiful hotel. Everyone was very nice and we ate very well, but as soon as you left this hotel you were, let’s call it morally accosted, at least, by the poverty. We saw children among the trash, treated possibly I would say as trash. Now, I have a son who is six years old and I was ashamed because they were in such poor conditions. I have a son Rocco who has understood very well what you are saying when you say to share with the poor. So on the way to school, he tries to distribute snacks to the beggars in the area. And, for me it’s much more difficult. Also for others, adult people it’s very difficult. Just one cardinal 40 years ago left everything to go among the lepers – that’s Leger (Archbishop Paul-Emile Leger of Montreal, who in 1968 and at the age of 64 resigned from his post to live with lepers, editor’s note) – so, I wanted to know why is it so difficult to follow that example also for the cardinals? I also wanted to ask you something else. It’s about Sri Lanka. There we saw all of the “favelas” on the way to the airport, they are shack supported against the tree. They practically live under the trees. Most are Tamils and they are discriminated against. After the massacre of Paris, right after, perhaps rashly, you said there is an isolated terrorism and a state-sponsored terrorism. What did you mean by “state-sponsored terrorism”? It came to my mind when I saw the discrimination and suffering of these people.

Pope Francis: Thanks. Thank you.

Salvatore: One more thing Holy Father, I wanted to tell you that my agency, AGI Italia which is turning 65 years old. So without taking anything away from ANSA, I wanted to let you know that we are working very hard in Asia, because with the tracks that Enrico Mattei left, AGI makes collaborative agreements with modest agencies in Palestine, in Pakistan, in Algeria, in a lot of countries. We also would like your encouragement. There are around 20 agencies that are associated with us in developing countries.

Pope Francis: When one of you asked me what message I was bringing to the Philippines, I said: the poor. Yes, it’s a message that Church today gives; also the message that you mention of Sri Lanka, of the Tamils and discrimination, no? The poor, the victims of this throwaway culture. This is true. Today, paper and what’s left over isn’t all that’s thrown away. We throw away people. And discrimination is a way of throwing away: these people are discarded. And there comes to mind a bit the image of the castes, no? This can’t go on. But today, throwing away seems normal. And you spoke of the luxurious hotel and then the shacks. In my diocese of Buenos Aires, there was the new area, which is called Puerto Madero, up to the train station, and then the start of the “Villas Miserias,” the poor. One after another. And in this part there are 36 luxurious restaurants. If you eat there, they take off your head. Right there is hunger. One next to the other. And we have the tendency to get used to this, no? To this, that… yes, yes, we’re here, and there, are those thrown away. This is poverty.

I think the Church must give examples – always more examples – of refusing every worldliness. To us consecrated, bishops, priests, sisters, laity who truly believe, the gravest sin and the gravest threat is worldliness. It’s really ugly to look on when you see a worldly consecrated, a man of the Church, a sister. It’s ugly. This is not the way of Jesus. It’s the path of an NGO that is called “church” but this isn’t the Church of Jesus, that NGO. Because the Church is not an NGO but another thing; when they become worldly, a part of the Church, these people, it becomes an NGO and it ceases to be the Church.

The Church is Jesus, died and risen for our salvation, and the testimony of the Christians that follow Christ. That scandal that you’ve said is true, yes. Scandal: we Christians often cause scandal. We Christians scandalize. Whether we are priests or laity, because the way of Jesus is difficult. It’s true that the Church needs to “be despoiled.” But you’ve made me think about this terrorism of states. This throwing away, even if it is like a terrorism. I hadn’t ever thought about it honestly but it makes me think. I don’t know what to say to you but truly those are not caresses, truly. It’s like saying “no, you no, you out.” Or, when it happened here in Rome that a homeless man had a stomach pain. Poor man. When you have stomach pain you go to the hospital into the emergency response unit and they give you an aspirin or something like that and then they give you an appointment for 15 days later, and after 15 days you come. After, he went to a priest and said, “But, no…” And the priest saw and was moved and said, ‘I’ll take you to the hospital but I want to do me a favor.  When I start explaining what you have, you act like you’re fainting.’ That’s how it happened. He was an artist. He did it well. There was a peritonitis. This man was discarded. He went out alone, he was discarded, and he was dying. That parish priest was smart, he helped us well. Stay away from worldliness, right? Is it a terrorism? Well, yes. We can think about this, yes, but I’ll think about it well. Thanks, and congratulations to the agency.

Jan Cristoph Kitzler: I would like to return for a minute to the encounter you had with families. You have spoken of ideological colonization. Would you explain a bit more the concept? You also mentioned Paul VI, speaking of the “particular causes” that are important to the pastoral care for families. Can you give an example of these particular cases and maybe say also if there is need to open the way, to have a corridor, for these particular cases?

Pope Francis: Ideological colonization. I’ll give just one example that I saw myself. Twenty years ago, in 1995, a minister of education asked for a large loan to build schools for the poor. They gave it to her on the condition that in the schools there would be a book for the children of a certain level, no? It was a schoolbook, a book prepared well, didactically, in which gender theory was taught. This woman needed the money but that was the condition. Clever woman, she said yes and did it again and again and it went ahead like this and that’s how it was achieved. This is ideological colonization.

They introduce to the people an idea that has nothing, nothing to do with the nation. Yes, with groups of people, but not with the nation. And they colonize the people with an idea that changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure. During the synod, the African bishops complained about this. Which was the same story, certain loans in exchange for certain conditions — I say only these things that I have seen.

Why do I say ideological colonization? Because they take, they really take, they take the need of a people to seize an opportunity to enter and grow strong — with the children. But it is not new, this. The same was done by the dictatorships of the last century. They entered with their own doctrine — think of the Balilla (Mussolini’s fascist youth organization — editor’s note), think of the Hitler Youth. They colonized the people, but they wanted to do it. But how much suffering — peoples must not lose their freedom. Each people has its own culture, its own history. Every people has its own culture. But when conditions come imposed by imperial colonizers, they seek to make these peoples lose their own identity and make a uniformity. This is the globalization of the sphere — all the points are equidistant from the center. And the true globalization — I like to say this — is not the sphere. It is important to globalize, but not like the sphere; rather, like the polyhedron. Namely that each people, every part, conserves its own identity without being ideologically colonized. These are the ideological colonizations.

There is a book, excuse me but I’ll make a commercial, there is a book that maybe is a bit heavy at the beginning because it was written in 1903 in London. It is a book that at that time, the writer had seen this drama of ideological colonization and wrote in that book. It is called “The Lord of the Earth,” or “The Lord of the World.” One of those. The author is Benson, written in 1903. I advise you to read it. Reading it, you’ll understand well what I mean by ideological colonization.

This is the first response. The second: What I want to say about Paul VI is that it is true that openness to life is the condition of the sacrament of matrimony. A man cannot give the sacrament to the woman, and the woman give it to him, if they are not in agreement on this point to be open to life. To the point that it can be proven that this or the other did not get married with this intention of being open to life, the matrimony is null. It’s a cause of the annulment of the marriage, no? Openness to life, no. Paul VI studied this, with the commission, how to help the many cases, many problems. They are important problems, that are even about love in the family, right? The everyday problems — so many of them.

But there was something more. The refusal of Paul VI was not only to the personal problems, for which he will tell the confessors to be merciful and understand the situation and pardon. Being understanding and merciful, no? But he was watching the universal Neo-Malthusianism that was in progress. And, how do you call this Neo-Malthusianism? There is less than one percent of birth rate growth in Italy. The same in Spain. That Neo-Malthusianism that sought to control humanity on the part of the powers. This doesn’t mean that the Christian must make children “in series.” I met a woman some months ago in a parish who was pregnant with her eighth child, who had had seven C-sections. But does she want to leave the seven as orphans? This is to tempt God. I speak of responsible paternity. This is the way, a responsible paternity. But, what I wanted to say was that Paul VI was not more antiquated, closed minded. No, he was a prophet who with this said to watch out for the Neo-Malthusianism that is coming. This is what I wanted to say.

Fr. Lombardi: I now give the question to Valentina, but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we are now over China — we seem to have now become accustomed to holding press conferences over China, as we did returning from Korea.

Valentina Alazraki: On the flight from Sri Lanka you used the image of the gesture that this poor man (Gasbarri) might have merited if he insulted your mother would have merited a punch. Your words were not well understood by everyone in the world and seemed to justify the use of violence in the face of provocation. Could you explain a little better what you meant to say?

Pope Francis: In theory we can say that a violent reaction in the face of an offense or a provocation, in theory yes, it is not a good thing, one shouldn’t do it. In theory we can say what the Gospel says, that we should turn the other cheek. In theory we can say that we have freedom of expression, and that’s important. But in theory we all agree. But we are human and there’s prudence, which is a virtue of human coexistence. I cannot constantly insult, provoke a person continuously, because I risk making him angry, and I risk receiving an unjust reaction, one that is not just. But that’s human. For this reason I say that freedom of expression must take into account the human reality and for this reason it must be prudent. It’s a way of saying that one must be educated, prudent. Prudence is the human virtue that regulates our relations. I can go up to here,  I can go up to there, and there, beyond that no. What I wanted to say is that in theory we all agree: there is freedom of expression, a violent aggression is not good, it’s always bad. We all agree, but in practice, let us stop a little because we are human and we risk provoking the other. For this reason freedom must be accompanied by prudence. That’s what I wanted to say.

Nicole Winfield, AP: For the English Group, I would like to ask you again about this year’s trip. You already told us that the trip to United States was previewed and mentioned three cities: New York, Washington and Philadelphia. Then, with the canonization of (Fr. Junipero) Serra, we ask if a stop to California is foreseeable, or at the Mexican border. Then, in South America, you told our colleague Elisabetta that three trips in three Latin American countries are previewed. Which are the countries? And do you think to beautify personally Archbishop Romero, who was recently considered a martyr (by the commission of theologians of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, editor’s note)?

Pope Francis: I start from the last one. There will be a war between Cardinal Amato and monsignor Paglia (laughs) over which of the two will do the beatification. No, beatifications are normally carried out by the Cardinal of the dicastery (for saints’ causes), or another (bishop).

Let’s go the first question of the United States. Yes, the three cities are Philadelphia, for the Meeting of Families; New York, I have the date already but I can’t remember, for the visit at the U.;N and Washington. It is these three.  I would like to go to California for the canonization of Junipero, but I think there is a problem of time. It requires two more days. I think that I will do that canonization at the shrine (of the Immaculate Conception) in Washington, it is is a national thing. In Washington, I’m not sure where, there is a statue of Junipero, at the capitol. To enter the USA from the border of Mexico would be a beautiful thing, as a sign of brotherhood and of help to the immigrants. But you know that to go to Mexico without going to visit the Madonna (of Guadalupe) would be a drama. A war could break out (laughing). And also it would mean three more days, and this is not clear. There I think there will only be those three cities. Later there will be time to go to Mexico. Did I forget something? Latin America countries? We have foreseen for this year – everything is still in draft form — Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. These three. Next year, God willing, I would like to go, but nothing is planned yet. Chile, Argentina and Uruguay and Peru are missing there, but we don’t know where to put it.

Father Lombardi: Thank you. We already have quite a precise and wide program of the (Pope’s) travels. Everything is provisional (this is just a draft schedule) – nothing is decided yet.

Carla Lim: Thank you very much for inspiring our country; on behalf of the Filipino people, thank you so much. Please forgive me because I cannot speak Italian. You mentioned, in some of your speeches, about corruption, and corruption takes away the resources from the people. What can your holiness do to fight corruption, not just in the government, but maybe in the Church as well?

Pope Francis: She’s tough, this one, eh? (Inaudible). Corruption today in the world is the order of the day, and the corrupt attitude easily and immediately finds a nest in institutions, because an institution that has so many branches here and there, so many chiefs and vice-chiefs, like that, it’s very easy for it to fall or provide a nest for corruption and every institution can fall into this. Corruption is taking from the people. That corrupt person who does corrupt deals or governs corruptly or associates himself with others in order to do corrupt deals, robs the people. The victims are those — where is he, the one of the anniversary? (he refers to Salvatore Izzo)– they are those who you said were behind the luxury hotel, no? They are the victims of corruption. Corruption is not closed in on itself; it goes out and kills. Do you understand? Today corruption is a worldwide problem.

Once in 2001, more or less, I asked the chief of the cabinet of the president at that time, which was a government that we thought to be not so corrupt, and it was true, it was not so corrupt, the government: “Tell me, the aid that you send into the interior of the country, whether it be in cash or food or clothes, all these things, how much gets to the place.” Immediately this man, who is a true man, clean, said, “35 percent.” That’s what he told me. The year 2001 in my homeland.

And now, corruption in ecclesial institutions. When I speak of the Church I like to speak of the faithful, the baptized, the whole Church, no? In that case, it’s better to speak of sinners. We are all sinners, no? But when we speak of corruption, we speak either of corrupt persons or of institutions in the Church that fall into corruption. And there are cases, yes, there are. I remember once, in the year 1994, when I had been barely named bishop of the Flores quarter of Buenos Aires, two employees or functionaries of a ministry came to me to tell me, “you have so much need here with so many poor in the villas miserias.” “Oh yes,” I said, and I told them. “We can help you. We have, if you want, a subsidy of 400,000 pesos.” At that time, the exchange rate with the dollar was one to one. $400,000. “You can do that?” “Yes, yes.” I listened because, when the offer is so big, the offer challenges even a saint. But they went on: “To do this, we make the deposit and then you give us half for ourselves.” In that moment I thought about what I would do: either I insult them and give them a kick where the sun doesn’t shine, or I play the fool. I played the fool and said, in truth, we at the vicariate don’t have an account; you have to make the deposit at the archdiocese’s office with the receipt. And that was it. “Oh, we didn’t know.” And they left. But later I thought, if these two landed without even asking for a runway — it’s a bad thought — it’s because someone else said yes. But it’s a bad thought, no? Does corruption happen easily? Let’s remember this: sinners yes, corrupted no, corrupted never. We must ask pardon for those Catholics, those Christians who scandalize with their corruption. It’s a wound in the Church. But there are so many saints, so many saints. And sinner saints, but not corrupt. Let’s look at the other side, too: the Church is holy. There are some here and there. Thank you for having the courage to ask this question.

Anais Feuga (Radio France): We’ve flying over China. Coming back from Korea, you said you’re ready to go to China tomorrow. In the light of this declaration, can you explain why you didn’t receive the Dalai Lama when he was at Rome a little while ago, and where do relations with China stand?

Pope Francis: Thanks for asking me this question. It’s a habit in the protocol of the Secretariat of State not to receive heads of state and people at that level when they’re taking part in an international meeting here in Rome. For example, for FAO I didn’t receive anyone. That’s the reason he wasn’t received. I saw that some newspapers said I didn’t receive him out of fear of China. That’s not true. At that time, this protocol was the reason. He asked for an audience, and it was said … but a date, a certain point. He asked before, but not for this moment, we are in relation. The motive was not a refusal of a person, or fear of China. Yes, we are open, we want peace with everyone. How do the relations with China stand? The government of China is respectful, we’re respectful, let’s take things one step at a time. That’s how things are done in history, no? We don’t yet know, but they know I’m available either to receive someone, or to go to China. They know. There was another question or not? Thank you.

Marco Ansaldo (La Repubblica): Holy Father, you have done an amazing trip, very rich, full of things, in the Philippines. But I would like to take a step back, because terrorism strikes Christianity, Catholics in many part of the world. We have recently seen it in Niger, but there are many examples. In the last trip we did, coming back from Turkey, you launched an appeal to Islamic leaders, saying that a step, a very firm intervention from them was needed. Now, it does not seem to me that this has been considered and welcomed, despite your words. There are some moderate Islamic countries, I can easily provide the example of Turkey, that have at least an ambiguous attitude toward terrorism – and let’s mention the cases of ISIS and of Charlie Hebdo. I do not know if you had the occasion to reflect and think how to go beyond your invitation over this past one month and a half, since your appeal had not been welcomed and was important. You, or someone on your behalf, I see here Monsignor Becciu or Cardinal Parolin himself, because this problem will keep on questioning us. Thank you.

Pope Francis: I even repeated that appeal to the diplomatic corps on the very day I left for Sri Lanka. In my speech to the diplomatic corps, I said that I hope that — more or less, I don’t remember the exact words – religious, political, academic and intellectual leaders express themselves on the issue. Even the moderate Muslim people ask that of their leaders. Some have done something. I also think that we should give some time: it is not easy, no. I am hopeful, since there are many good people among them, many good leaders, I am sure we will achieve it. But I wanted to underscore that I repeated that on the day I departed from Rome.

Christoph Schmidt: Holy Father, first of all I would like to say: Thank you very much for all the impressive moments of this week. It is the first time I accompany you, and I would like to say thank you very much. My question: you have talked about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy because there are so many children, but according to some polls the majority of Filipinos think that the huge growth of Filipino population is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty in the country. A Filipino woman gives birth to an average of three children in her life, and the Catholic position concerning contraception seem to be one of the few question on which a big number of people in the Philippines do not agree with the Church. What do you think about that?

Pope Francis: I think the number of three children per family that you mentioned – it makes me suffer- I think it is the number experts say is important to keep the population going. Three per couple. When this decreases, the other extreme happens, like what is happening in Italy. I have heard, I do not know if it is true, that in 2024 there will be no money to pay pensioners because of the fall in population. Therefore, the key word, to give you an answer, and the one the Church uses all the time, and I do too, is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood.

That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is an irresponsibility. That woman might say ‘no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.

Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.

Elisabetta Pique, La Nacion: Representing the Spanish language group, I have two questions.  This was a moving voyage for everyone. We saw people crying the entire time in Tacloban, even we journalists cried.  Yesterday you said the world needs to cry. We would like to ask you, what was – and it was all very moving – what was for you the most moving moment? That is the first question. The second, yesterday you made history, you surpassed the record set by John Paul II, in the same place, there were 6 or 7 million people. How does it feel to have seen – Cardinal Tagle was telling us that during the Mass in front of the altar you asked him, but how many people are here? How does it feel to have surpassed this record, to have entered into history as the Pope with the Mass with the highest attendance in history?  Thank you.

Pope Francis: The most moving moment: for me, the Mass in Tacloban was very moving. Very moving.  To see all of God’s people standing still, praying, after this catastrophe, thinking of my sins and those people, it was moving, a very moving moment. On the moment of the Mass there, I felt as though I was annihilated, I almost couldn’t speak. I don’t know what happened to me, maybe it was the emotion, I don’t know. But I didn’t feel another thing, it is something.  And then, the moving moments: the gestures were moving. Every gesture.  When I passed and a father would do this (gestures) and I blessed him, he would say thank you. But for them, a blessing was enough. I thought — I who have so many expectations — I want this and I want that. That was good for me, no? Moving moments. After I found out that in Tacloban we landed with winds at 70 kilometres per hour, I took it seriously the warning that we needed to leave no later than one o’clock because there was more danger.

Regarding the great turnout, I felt annihilated.  These were God’s people, and God was present. And the joy of the presence of God which tells us, think on it well, that you are servants of these people, these people are the protagonists. Something like this. The other thing is the weeping. One of the things that is lost when there is too much wealth or when values are misunderstood or we have become accustomed to injustice, to this culture of waste, is the capacity to cry. This is a grace we must ask for. There is a beautiful prayer in the old missal (1962, editor’s note) for tears. It went more or less like this: ‘O Lord, you who have made it so that Moses with his cane made water flow from a stone, make it so from the rock that is my heart, that water of tears may flow.’ It’s a beautiful prayer. We Christians must ask for the grace to cry. Especially wealthy Christians. To cry about injustice and to cry about sins. Because crying opens you to understand new realities, or new dimensions to realities.

This is what the girl said, what I said to her. She was the only one to ask that question to which there is no answer: why do children suffer? The great Dostoyevsky asked himself this, and he could not answer. Why do children suffer?  She, with her weeping, a woman who was weeping. When I say it is important that women be held in higher consideration in the Church, it’s not just to give them a function as the secretary of a dicastery — though this would be fine.  No, it’s so that they may tell us tell us how they experience, and view reality. Because women view things from a different richness, a larger one. Another thing I would like to underscore is what I said to the last young man, who truly works well, he gives and gives and gives, he organizes to help the poor. But don’t forget that we too need to be beggars – from them.  Because the poor evangelize us. If we take the poor away from the Gospel, we cannot understand Jesus’ message. The poor evangelize us. I go to evangelize the poor, yes, but allow them to evangelize you. Because they have values that you do not.

I thank you very much for your work, I have esteem for it.  Thanks very much.  I know it is a sacrifice for you. Thanks very much. I would like make these thanks concrete towards our dean,  whose birthday it is today (Valentina Alazraki, editor’s note). We can’t say how old you are but you’ve worked here since you were a child, as a child, as a child. Best wishes.



Heartfelt thanks to the many people – including a number of fans in the Phlippines – who wrote comments on my Facebook page (/joansrome) and to those who emailed me about my blog and my Facebook postings. Nothing could have beat actually being on the ground in Sri Lanka or the Philippines – or aboard the papal plane! – but good reporting from colleagues helps paint an accurate and colorful picture.

Here’ what people think:

ALLAN – He (Pope Francis) deals with reality in the society. Basic but crucial issues and concerns and he plunged into it unhesitatingly, trustingly. This is the faith that could testify all brave men like Pope Francis. His engagement, message, and missions is easy to understand because he put it on a real life situation. He live what he preach. I think this is what it is all about.

ANN MARIE – Been glued to my Filipino channel and EWTN the entire time. I read so many articles and browsed through so many videos and photos. Can’t get enough of Pope Francis and this heartwarming and inspiring experience. I just came from Rome and have seen the Pope there but I wanted to be in Manila experiencing first hand this historic event.

PATTI –  6 million people to share Holy Mass with the Shepherd of Christ.!! through their suffering faith has stood solid!! Bless our sisters and brothers in the Philipines!

DEXTER –  “I was there Miss Joan Lewis, it was super packed but i didnt hear anyone complained. I heard people say, “the smile of the Pope erases all the inconvenience” what a blessing it was…”

MARY – I agree, this trip by Pope Francis IS historic, but I also believe the Pope’s trip to the Holy Land, and other evangelization and ecumenical outreaches the Pope has made are historic. In my view, Pope Francis is the best Pope we have had in my lifetime when considering the living out of the full scope of the Catholic faith. Francis is truly a man for all seasons and for all people. I am praying for him, that his life and ministry will be long and blessed and glorify the Lord.

BRYAN – Let’s pray that God will bless this beautiful country with protection from the calamities of nature, especially now that “Peter” has visited His people there.

MARICELA – PAPA FRANCISCO, un regalo para el mundo, no lo pierdas de vista!

A NICE TOUCH!  In the middle of his press conference with the Vatican-accredited reporters during the flight back to the Vatican, the 78-year-old pontiff brought out a birthday cake for journalist Valentina Alazraki. “We can’t say how old you are but you’ve worked here since you were a child, as a child, as a child. Best wishes,” the Pope joked before concluding the press briefing. Pope Francis had asked Filipino pastry chef Tippi Tambunting last Friday to bake a birthday cake for his surprise. He also asked additional cakes for the rest of the media people on the plane.


Pope Francis returned last evening from his weeklong trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines and, as has been his wont on papal flights, gave an interview to journalists as they flew to Rome from Manila. The Pope was asked about his impressions of the events and people in the Philippines, future travel plans, responsible parenthood, corruption  and the need for the world to learn how to cry. He emphasized that he was most impressed with the many gestures of the Filipino people, gestures that show they know much about life, loving, caring and sharing and family, but they also “know suffering.” He mentioned their “true enthusiasm, joy, happiness, able to celebrate even in the rain.

The Holy Father spent an hour with journalists during the inflight interview. I am poting a separate column on that give-and-take called “An Hour With Pope Francis.”

After landing at Rome’s Ciampino Airport but before returning to the Vatican, Francis went to the basilica of St. Mary Major to pray to the Virgin “Salus populi romani” and to give thanks, as he has done since being elected Pope, for the positive outcome of his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.


Asia News reports from Colombo:  “For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, we Tamil had the chance to see the Pope in our native places. It was truly a great blessing, not only for us but for all the people of this country”: This is the reaction of some Tamils from the north of the island describing to AsiaNews the significance of Francis’ visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Madhu in the diocese of Mannar, on January 14.

The moment of prayer together with the victims of the civil war was one of the pivotal moments of the journey made by the pontiff to the former Ceylon. “We believe,”said an elderly couple, “that Pope Francis’ visit is a good thing not just for us Tamils, but also for all civilians in the country, without distinction. In addition, we are pleased that he was welcomed by a leader with a good heart, kind and disciplined, not a corrupt president.”

A Tamil Hindu doctor says he is “happy that the Pope, spiritual leader of the Catholics, has come to visit his flock. And it was nice that he visited a Buddhist temple. His example teaches us to respect all religions and to allow everyone to practice their own. I appreciate Pope Francis: He came at a  good time, when the country has changed government and nourishes a new hope for a better future. ”

For a Catholic nun, the visit of Francis to the Marian shrine of Madhu “will remain engraved forever in our hearts. It is the first time for a Pope to come here to the north, meeting the most affected by the conflict. The credit also goes to Msgr. Rayappu Joseph [bishop of Mannar, ed], who strongly wanted his presence here.”


( After the historic visit of Pope Francis, the bishops of the Philippines gathered in Manila for the plenary assembly of the Bishops’ Conference. The meeting will last until January 22 and will discuss the main issues such as the new evangelization and the “Year of the Poor,” proclaimed by the local Church for 2015.

Speaking to Fides (news agency) Fr. Melvin Castro, secretary of the Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference said, they would look at these urgent needs in a different light after the Pope’s visit. “Among the Bishops, among the clergy and the faithful, there is a great enthusiasm for what Pope Francis donated to our Church, he said. The Pope received spiritual energy from the crowd of faithful who welcomed him, and our Church in the Philippines received great consolation and strong enthusiasm to live and profess its faith, thanks to Pope Francis’ presence and words,” continues Fr.Castro.

“The Pope,” he said, “showed us a model of Church that is attentive towards the poor. This approach will have a strong impact in the long term in the Philippine Church. The poor teach that man is worth for what he is, and not for what he has.” Fr. Castro also notes the impetus given to the Filipino laity that, after the Pope’s trip, “will bear fruit of a greater involvement in pastoral care, especially for families and young people.” With regards to the family, Fr. Castro noted: “We are happy that the Pope spoke out in defense of the family and stigmatized the ideology that comes from Western culture, which exports divorce, abortion, homosexual marriage, inviting us to promote and defend family with the traditional values of Philippine culture,” concluded Fr. Castro.