Pope Francis asked for prayers as he spoke about the future of the Church and his pontificate so far in an interview published in the early hours of Sunday.
Speaking to the Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, Pope Francis declined to evaluate his pontificate so far, saying the Lord will judge his life one day based on whether he practiced the Corporal Works of Mercy as taught by Jesus.
“The Church is not a business, or an NGO, and the pope is not an administrator who has been commissioned to balance the numbers at the end of the year,” he said, according to an English transcript published on Il Fatto Quotidiano March 12.
The interview, one in a slew of recent papal interviews to be published, marks the March 13 anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the papacy.
“Being the pope is not an easy job. Nobody has studied before doing this,” the pope said, recalling how St. Peter also “fell” when he denied Christ.
“But, after the resurrection, Jesus chose [Peter] again,” Pope Francis explained. “That is the mercy of the Lord towards us. Also towards the pope. ‘Servus inutilis sum.’ I’m a useless servant, as wrote Saint Paul VI in his ‘Thoughts on Death.’”
According to the pope, it’s not easy to pay attention to God’s will and put it into practice: “It’s necessary to attune yourself with the Lord, not with the world.”
The latest papal interview centered on Pope Francis’ hopes for the future of the Church, the world, and his own life.
He said the “governing program” of his pontificate was to implement the requests of the College of Cardinals’ general congregation, the meetings that took place ahead of the conclave that elected him.
He also said that back in 2013, he reflected often on a quote from the homily of the first Mass of Pope Benedict XVI.
On April 24, 2005, Benedict said: “In this moment it’s not necessary for me to present a governing program. … My true governing program is that which doesn’t follow my own will, to not pursue my own ideas, but to listen, alongside all of the Church, to the words and the will of the Lord and let myself be guided by him, so that he himself guides the Church in this hour of our history.”
Pope Francis also credited Benedict XVI with tackling the abuse crisis in the Church with courage.
Asked about his wish for the world, Pope Francis responded: “peace.”
He also criticized what he called a “globalization of indifference” in the face of tragedies like war: “The turning a blind eye and saying, ‘Why should I care? It doesn’t interest me! It’s not my problem!’”
Pope Francis said one of his dreams for the future of the Church is a Church which ventures out into the world and is among the people.
He also addressed the topic of clericalism.
“I dream of a Church without clericalism,” he said, quoting Cardinal Henri-Marie de Lubac.
Lubac wrote that for a priest, clericalism “would be infinitely more disastrous than any simple moral worldliness,” the pope said.
“Clericalism is the worst thing that can happen to the Church, worse still than the periods in which the pope was corrupt,” he added. “A priest, a bishop or a cardinal who becomes ill through clericalism does a lot of damage to the Church. It’s a contagious disease. Even worse are the clericalized lay people: they are a nuisance in the Church. Lay people should be lay people.”
Pope Francis said one issue that has made him suffer a lot during his pontificate is corruption.
“I’m not speaking about only financial corruption, inside and outside of the Vatican, I’m talking about corruption of the heart. Corruption is a scandal,” he said.
His hope for his own future, he said, is that the Lord will be merciful with him.
Addressing readers of the newspaper, he asked for prayers from those who pray and “good vibes” from those who do not. “The pope loves you and is praying for you.”
“Even if bad things happen, even if you have had a bad experience with someone from the Church, don’t let it condition you. The Lord is always waiting for you with open arms. I hope you succeed in experiencing it within your lives like I have within mine many times. The Lord has always been beside me, above all in the darkest moments.”