Pope’s parting gift to journalists: an 80-min. unscripted Q&A

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM BRAZIL — Although he had told reporters on the way to Brazil that he did not like giving interviews, on the way back to Rome July 28 Pope Francis spent more than 80 minutes responding to their questions.

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Pope Francis answers journalists’ questions on plane ride back to Rome from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. July 28, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

He said his efforts to reform the Roman Curia flowed directly from what the world’s cardinals said when they met before the conclave that elected him in March; he said he had investigated claims of sexual misconduct against a priest he named to a position at the Vatican bank and found the claims ungrounded.

He spoke of his relationship with retired Pope Benedict XVI, the role of women in the church, the need to respond to the needs of divorced Catholics who have remarried civilly — he even told reporters what is in his carryon luggage and he looked shocked when told that photos of him carrying the bag onto the plane were printed around the world.

“I’ve always carried a bag when I’ve traveled. It’s normal,” he said. “We must be normal.”

Pope Francis, with a big smile, told reporters that the bag did not contain “a key to the atomic bomb,” like a U.S. presidential aide would carry. Instead, he said, it has “my razor” — and he laughed when the journalists did — it also has his “breviary, daily planner (with phonebook) and a book to read. This time I brought one about ‘Santa Teresina’ (St. Therese of Lisieux), to whom I am devoted.”

The pope answered questions from 21 journalists, responding mostly in Italian, but sometimes slipping into Spanish, especially if the question was asked in his mother tongue. The questions were not submitted in advance.

He prefaced the news conference by talking about how pleased he was with World Youth Day and how tired he was, yet he was animated in his responses and showed no desire to rush out of the media section of the plane, even when there was turbulence.

After about half an hour, he asked the journalists if he should stop so that the flight attendants could serve dinner; they shouted “no,” he laughed and faced the next question.

For more details on what the pope said, be sure to check out our latest coverage as it’s posted to our “CNS at Rio 2013” page at http://cnsatwyd.wordpress.com/.

The plane took off from Brazil at 7 p.m. local time. The papal news conference meant that most people’s plans to try to sleep before arriving in Rome the next morning ended up being only a dream.

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