More from Pope Francis’ inflight news conference

UPDATE: Watch the pope’s discussion on how to stop militant aggression against religious minorities in Iraq in this CNS video:

VATICAN CITY — For those who want even more than what our story yesterday contained, here are a few additional outtakes from Pope Francis’ inflight news conference yesterday:

– On China and being the first pope to receive permission to fly through Chinese airspace:

He said that on the flight to South Korea Aug. 13, “when we were about to enter Chinese airspace, I was in the cockpit with the pilots and one of them showed me the flight log and said, ‘In 10 minutes we will enter Chinese airspace; we must ask authorization. … We always ask, it’s normal to ask every country.’ And I heard how they request authorization, and the response. I witnessed that. And the pilot said, ‘Now we’ll send the telegram,’ but I don’t know how they did that.”

Pope Francis answers questions Aug. 18 during the flight from Seoul, South Korea, back to Rome. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis answers questions Aug. 18 during the flight from Seoul, South Korea, back to Rome. (CNS/Paul Haring)

– On his planned trip to Albania Sept. 21:

“Why am I going to Albania? For two reasons. First, because they have been able to form a government — think about the Balkans — they have a government of national unity made up of Muslims, Orthodox (and) Catholics with an interreligious council that helps a lot and is balanced. This is going well, it’s harmonious. The presence of the pope will say to the people, ‘See, you can work together!’ and I thought it would be a real help for that noble people. And another thing: If you think about the history of Albania, religiously it was the only communist country that enshrined atheism in its constitution. If you went to Mass, it was unconstitutional. And one of the ministries told me that — I want to be precise with the figures — 1,820 churches, Orthodox and Catholic, were destroyed in that period. And other churches were (transformed) into cinemas, theaters, dance halls. I felt like I should go. It’s close, the trip can be done in a day.”

– On his relationship with retired Pope Benedict XVI:

“Before leaving I went to visit him. And two weeks earlier he had sent me an interesting text and asked my opinion about it.”

The pope said he and his retired predecessor have “a normal relationship,” similar to the relationship between a diocesan bishop and the diocese’s retired bishop. “I think that having a pope emeritus will not be an exception” forever. Pope Benedict’s decision to retire because of his age and his perception that the church needed a more energetic pope “was a beautiful gesture of nobility and also humility and courage.” By retiring, “he opened an institutional door. Our relationship really is one of brothers, but I also have said that it is like having a grandfather in the house because of his wisdom.”

– On current wars, tensions and torture:

“Someone said to me, ‘But you know, Father, we are in the Third World War,’” one that is being fought in many little pieces. “It is a world at war where these cruelties are committed. I want to dwell on two words: first, cruelty. Today children don’t count. It used to be that people spoke of a conventional war, (but) today that doesn’t count. I’m not saying that conventional wars are a good thing — no. But today bombs are dropped and the innocent are slaughtered along with the guilty — children, women, their moms, everyone is slaughtered. We must stop and think about the level of cruelty at which we have arrived. This should frighten us!”

“And the other word, which is related, and which I want to say something about is torture. Today torture is, I would say, almost an ordinary behavior of intelligence services and judicial processes…. And torture is a sin against humanity, a crime against humanity. I would say to Catholics: To torture someone is a mortal sin, it is a serious sin. But it’s more than that, it is a sin against humanity.”

Pope Francis listens to a journalist's question on the flight back to Rome. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis listens to a journalist’s question on the flight back to Rome. (CNS/Paul Haring)

– On whether he feels like a prisoner in the Vatican:

“No, no, no. At the beginning, yes, but now some walls have fallen.” He said at the beginning of his pontificate he would hear or at least perceive sentences beginning “The popes cannot…” followed by something that would be normal for most people. “Here’s an example to make you laugh: I’d go to get the elevator and immediately someone would come because the pope could not go down in the elevator alone.” He said he made it clear, “’Go back to your place; I’m going down alone.’ And that was the end of it.”

– On whether, given the fighting in Israel and the Gaza Strip, he sees as a failure his June 8 prayer for peace at the Vatican with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

“That prayer for peace absolutely was not a failure,” he said. “These two men are men of peace, men who believe in God and have seen many ugly things, so many ugly things that they are convinced the only path for resolving the situation there is through negotiation, dialogue and peace.”

The prayer was an important step forward, he said. “Right now the smoke of the bombs, of the wars, make it impossible to see the door, but the door has remained open since that moment. And because I believe in God, I believe that the Lord watches that door and those who pray and all those who ask for his help.”

– On what he was going to do as soon as he got back to Rome:

“From the airport I will go to Mary (the Basilica of St. Mary Major): it’s something beautiful. Dr. Giani (the chief of security) ordered flowers in Korea with the Korean colors, but leaving the nunciature a little girl came with a bouquet of flowers — roses — and we said, ‘We’ll take these flowers to Mary as a gift from a Korean girl.’ And that’s what we’ll do. From the airport, we will go pray a bit, and then go home.”

Setting a record for sacred #selfies

Past popes have set a variety of records, but Pope Francis seems sure to be setting the record for papal selfies.

Pope Francis poses with South Korean journalist Jung Ae Ko of Joongang Ilbo newspaper. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis poses with South Korean journalist Jung Ae Ko of Joongang Ilbo newspaper. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Even aboard the papal flight to Seoul, South Korea, in mid-August, Pope Francis posed for selfies with some of the Vatican press corps.

To be fair, the technology for selfies was not as prevalent for past popes. But then again, air travel was not as prevalent as when St. John Paul II set a record for papal travels.

A selfie after youth luncheon at the major seminary in Daejeon, South Korea, Aug. 15. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano, pool)

A selfie after youth luncheon at the major seminary in Daejeon, South Korea, Aug. 15. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, pool)

But can you imagine not only eating lunch with Pope Francis, but posing for a photo with him afterward?

Selfies are not a new phenomenon for this pope. People are glad to be seen with him, even if it means just catching a shot as he drives through St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile.

A man takes a selfie of himself and Pope Francis as the pope arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square Jan. 22. (CNS/Paul Haring)

A man takes a selfie of himself and Pope Francis as the pope arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 22. (CNS/Paul Haring)



At stadium Mass, pope tells Koreans to resist materialism

The opening procession as Pope Francis prepares to celebrate Mass for the feast of the Assumption in Daejeon, South Korea. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The opening procession as Pope Francis prepares to celebrate Mass for the feast of the Assumption in Daejeon, South Korea. (CNS/Paul Haring)

SEOUL, South Korea — Celebrating the feast of the Assumption of Mary in South Korea, Pope Francis prayed that Christian values would overcome demoralization in economically successful societies.

“The hope held out by the Gospel is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness,” the pope said Aug. 15 in his homily at the World Cup Stadium in Daejeon.

With some 50,000 people gathered for the Mass, the pope voiced his hope that Christians in South Korea, the world’s 13th-largest economy, might “combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife.”

“May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child,” he said.

At the end of Mass, before praying the Angelus, the pope mourned the approximately 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry, some of whose relatives he had met briefly before the start of Mass.

“May this tragic event which has brought all Koreans together in grief confirm their commitment to work together in solidarity for the common good,” he said.

Pope Francis’ sobering words stood in contrast to the ebullience of the crowd, and of the pope himself, as he entered the stadium in an open-sided popemobile. The pope, who had traveled the 85 miles from Seoul by train instead of helicopter as originally planned, was greeted by thousands of people performing the wave and holding signs of welcome, including a banner reading “We love you” in Italian.

The day was overcast but warm and humid, with temperatures reaching the mid-80s. Before the Mass, members of the congregation were asked not fan themselves with the hats or booklets during the liturgy. Many women wore white lace veils, a tradition still widely practiced in Korea.

The pope celebrated the Mass in Latin, with the readings and responses in Korean. He delivered his homily in Italian.

60 years of praying the Angelus with the popes

VATICAN CITY — Every Sunday and on many holy days, tens of thousands of people gather in St. Peter’s Square to recite the Angelus prayer with the pope.

And they have done so for 60 years.

Pope Benedict XVI in "the second window from the right" in 2013. (CNS/Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI in “the second window from the right” in 2013. (CNS/Reuters)

It is such a fixture of life at the Vatican and in Rome that tours to the Vatican include a guide pointing up to the Apostolic Palace and telling people, “The second window from the right” is where the pope stands on Sundays to lead the Marian prayer.

The prayer gets its name from its opening words in Latin — the language the popes use for their recitation of the prayer: “Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae” (“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary”).

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, carried an article yesterday describing the first public papal recitation of the prayer. It was Aug. 15, 1954, and Pope Pius XII was at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. Pope Pius had proclaimed 1954 a Marian Year and members of Italian Catholic Action wanted to celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary with special prayers.

Pope Pius XII at the window.  (CNS file photo)

Pope Pius XII at the window. (CNS file photo)

For centuries popes recited the Angelus in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Church bells throughout Italy and across Europe would ring to remind the faithful to stop and pray, honoring Mary’s role in the incarnation of Jesus.

Pope Pius fulfilled Catholic Action’s request to pray with him by allowing Vatican Radio into the summer villa to broadcast his midday recitation live.

“The experience must have pleased Pius XII because that autumn he willingly agreed to recite the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square from the window of his office. Since that time, the world has come to know that window well,” L’Osservatore’s story said.

The official promoters’ of Pope Pius’ sainthood cause have upload a recording of that first Angelus address. You can listen to it by going to their website and clicking on the bar just above the detail from Jean-Francois Millet’s painting, “The Angelus.”

Papal flight plan shows improved diplomatic relations

VATICAN CITY — The world’s political situation is frightening in many areas right now and requires prayer, humanitarian action and diplomacy. But Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea, which begins Wednesday, offers some perspective that things can change for the better.

For the first time ever, a papal flight will fly over China Wednesday.

According to the Italian blog, Il Sismografo, which collaborates with Vatican Radio, when Pope John Paul II went to South Korea for the first time — in 1984 — Vatican officials and Alitalia airlines did not even ask the Chinese for permission to cross the country’s airspace. Instead the plane took the polar route.

The extra distance meant a refueling stop was necessary, so the plane landed in Fairbanks, Alaska; Pope John Paul was welcomed by President Ronald Reagan and celebrated a Liturgy of the Word with people gathered at the airport.

In 1989, when Pope John Paul made his second visit to South Korea, they did ask the Chinese for flyover permission. It was denied.

The arc shows the route of Pope John Paul II's 1989 flight to Seoul. The lower line shows the most direct route. (Graphic by Il Sismografo)

The arc shows the route of Pope John Paul II’s 1989 flight to Seoul. The lower line shows the most direct route. The Vatican says the pope will fly over Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia and China. (Graphic by Il Sismografo)

But, by then, relations with the Soviet Union had softened enough that the pope was allowed to fly over Soviet airspace (the route is the arc on the map). Above Soviet territory for more than eight hours, Pope John Paul sent a message to President Mikhail Gobachev: “Flying over Soviet territory en route to a pastoral visit to several Asian countries, I wish to greet your excellency and to assure you of my best wishes for the well-being and prosperity of your countrymen.”

It is standard practice for the pope to send a message from the plane to the heads of the states his plane flies over. Briefing journalists about the South Korea trip, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman basically said people would have to wait until Wednesday to see if the pope would send a message to Chinese officials when he flies over.

Scenes from the pope’s garden at Castel Gandolfo

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — Even though Pope Francis has decided not to head out to the cooler climes of Castel Gandolfo for the summer, members of the CNS Rome Bureau decided to spend a morning there.

The director of the papal villas, Osvaldo Gianoli, gave us a three-hour tour to promote the opening of the gardens to the public — when they buy a ticket and follow a guide.

In addition to our story and video about the visit, I thought I would share some more of the photos taken by our intern, Henry Daggett.


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Pope Francis on the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s death

Pope Paul VI VATICAN CITY — Holding his weekly general audience today in the Vatican’s air-conditioned Paul VI audience hall, Pope Francis reminded people that today is the 36th anniversary of the death of the pope who commissioned the hall. Pope Paul VI died Aug. 6, 1978, at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo. He was 80 years old.

“I remember him with affection and admiration, given how he lived a life totally dedicated to serving the church, which he loved wholeheartedly,” Pope Francis said today. “May his example as a faithful servant of Christ and the Gospel be an encouragement and stimulus for all of us.”

Pope Francis will highlight the holiness of Pope Paul, who led the church from 1963 to 1978, again Oct. 19 when he presides over his beatification. The ceremony will take place during the closing Mass for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

In addition to guiding the church through the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation, Pope Paul also is remembered for his encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” the 1968 teaching on the marriage, married love and procreation. The encyclical affirmed the church’s prohibition of artificial contraception.

Pope Paul also was the first pope in the modern era to travel abroad, making nine foreign trips, including to the Holy Land, India, the United States, Uganda and the Philippines.

Pope Francis, over the past several months, also has highlighted as extremely important and still very relevant two documents by Pope Paul: “Ecclesiam Suam” on the church in the modern world; and “Evangelii Nuntiandi” on the proclamation of the Gospel.

Last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of his election as pope, we created a video with images from his papacy. You can watch it here:


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