VATICAN CITY — The publication of Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari’s interview with Pope Francis last week raised an international stir, comparable to that previously excited by the pope’s interview with his Jesuit confrere, Father Antonio Spadaro. Both articles showed the pope speaking in characteristically frank style about matters of heaven and earth.
But it turns out there is an important difference between the two texts that readers should bear in mind when quoting or interpreting words attributed to the pope.
The earlier interview, published in America magazine and several other Jesuit publications, was “carefully reviewed in detail,” so the “particular statements in it are absolutely trustworthy,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told CNS.
The Scalfari interview is another matter. Doubts about its accuracy were raised and confirmed last week with regard to an oft-quoted passage in which Pope Francis supposedly described his state of mind immediately following his election in March, including a moment when he considered turning down the papacy. It turns out that moment must have occurred after he had already formally accepted his election.
That particular passage of Scalfari’s article is a “reconstruction and not a transcript” of the pope’s words, Father Lombardi said, declining to say whether other portions were based on notes or a recording. He added that the article, which has been reprinted in the Vatican newspaper, “should be considered faithful on the whole to the mind of the pope, but not necessarily in its particular words and the accuracy of its details.”