(Vatican Radio) In a style that seems to have become almost signature of the current pontificate, Pope Francis stepped out of yet another scripted session to engage in a spontaneous question-and-answer period with hundreds of children and teens.
The papal audience in the Paul VI Hall with students, teachers and staff of Jesuit grade schools and high schools on Friday became a friendly dialogue between the 76-year-old pontiff and the young people.
The students, who had come from six Italian cities and one school in Albania, were passing time singing a Christian rap song, when the Pope entered the hall unannounced. At his sighting, they immediately erupted into cheers and applause.
In response, it seems, Pope Francis decided to put his five-page written message aside.
“I prepared a text, but it’s five pages! A little boring,” he said to the young people, who responded with laughter and applause.
He proposed to give a short summary and then take questions from the students instead. (source)
The one question not even mentioned in this report from Vatican Radio was of course the only part the media concentrated on.
One of the most touching moments came when Teresa, a bright-eyed redhead no more than six, asked Francis flat out if he had wanted to be pope.
Francis joked that only someone who hated himself would ever want to be pope. But then he became serious: ‘‘I didn’t want to be pope.’’ (source)
I guess for many outside of the Catholic Church and unfortunately too many within see the papacy in terms of power and control. Kind of a President of the Catholic Church. So it is somewhat shocking to people to think that someone would not aspire to such a position. No doubt though that in the history of the Church the worst pope’s were indeed those that wanted to be pope and did see it in terms of prestige an power.
Still for the media and many others this is a surprising thing. Which just goes to show that once again they haven’t been paying attention. I don’t remember picking up on Pope Benedict XVI coat of arms with the bear of St. Corbinian and the multiple times he tried to retired as prefect of the CDF. Blessed John Paul II reportedly went to the august 1978 Conclave, stating that he was not at all fit to become pope and was elected to his own surpise. He hesitated quite some time before uttering the traditional “Accepto”. Maybe it is really hard to imagine service over personal desires now that radical individuality is the norm. If we use the term “public servant” at all we often use it with more than a dash of sarcasm.
Now since we don’t have an actual transcript of this event there are some questions regarding some of the coverage that is hard to definitively answer. Although I put my money on negative spin.
For example Vatican Radio’s article reported:
“I have a need to live among people.” he said. “If I were to live alone, perhaps a little isolated, it would not be good for me. … It is my personality. … It is not an issue of personal virtue, it is only that I cannot live alone.”
Other media outlets reported that it was to “preserve his mental health” or for his “psychiatric” health.”
Still there were way more interesting answers he gave in this question and answer session.
When a student doubting his faith asked for words of encouragement, the Pope likened the faith to a long walk. “To walk is an art,” he said, “To walk is the art of looking at the horizon, thinking about where I want to go but also enduring the fatigue. And many times, the walk is difficult, it is not easy… There is darkness… even days of failure… one falls… But always think this: do not be afraid of failure.
“Do not be afraid of falling. In the art of walking, what is important is not avoiding the fall but not remaining fallen. Get up quickly, continue on, and go,” he said to applause. “But it is also terrible to walk alone, terrible and boring. Walking in community with friends, with those who love us, this helps us … get to the end.”
In response to a question by a teacher about the role of Catholics in politics, the Pope said participation in politics is a Christian obligation.
“We, Christians, cannot ‘play Pilot’ and wash our hands. We cannot,” he said. “We must participate in politics because politics is one of the highest forms of charity because it seeks the common good. And Christian lay people must work in politics.”
“It is not easy; politics has become too tainted. But I ask myself: Why has it become tainted? Because Christians have not participated in politics with an evangelical spirit? … To work for the common good is a Christian duty, and many times the way in which to work towards it is through politics.”
Update: Zenit provides a full translation.