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Pope calls press to bring attention to horror of genital mutilation

Pope Francis holds a meeting with volunteers of the World Young Day

Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 08/07/23

On in-flight press conference returning from Portugal, Pope Francis notes the many types of abuse that still need fighting

Pope Francis gave his customary in-flight press conference as he returned from Portugal on the evening of August 6, after a World Youth Day celebration that he described as “the best prepared” of the fourth WYDs he’s had.

In his brief dialogue, the Holy Father highlighted a number of issues, some that he’s mentioned in other contexts, and some that he hasn’t stressed as much.

Vatican News has a working transcription / translation of the whole q-and-a. Here we highlight a few points.

1Abuse, abuse in the Church, genital mutilation

Asked about how bishops are handling abuse in the Church, particularly after the publication of the investigation in Portugal, here is some of what the Pope said (emphases ours):

In the Church, we followed more or less the same behavior that is currently followed in families and neighborhoods: we cover it up… We think that 42% of abuse takes place in families or neighborhoods. … Since the Boston scandal, the Church has become aware that one cannot go down random paths, but that one had to take the bull by the horns. …

I would like to address one point and I would like to ask you journalists to collaborate on this. Do you have a phone today? A phone. Well, on any of these phones, for a fee and with a password, you have access to child sexual abuse. This comes into our homes and child sexual abuse is filmed live. Where is it filmed? Who are the perpetrators? This is one of the most serious plagues …

To your question I would say what I said: the process is going well, I am informed about how things are going. The news may have exaggerated the situation, but things are going well as far as that is concerned. But also, with that, I would say, in some way: Help out. Help so that all types of abuse can be resolved, sexual abuse, but it is not the only one.

There are also other types of abuse that cry out to heaven: the abuse of child labor … the abuse of women, no? Even today, in many countries, surgery is still done on little girls: their clitoris is removed, and that is today, and it is done with a razor, and goodbye … Cruelty… And the abuse of labor, that is within sexual abuse, which is serious, and all that: There is a culture of abuse that humanity must review and must undergo a conversion.

2Homilies, and speaking off-the-cuff

Young people don’t have a long attention span. Think about it: if you make a clear speech with an idea, an image, an affection, they can follow you for eight minutes. Incidentally, in Evangelii Gaudium, my first Apostolic Exhortation, I wrote a long, long chapter on the homily …

Pope Francis meeting with volunteers of the World Young Day

3A book recommendation

The exploitation of migrants is criminal. Not here in Europe, because it’s fine, we are more cultured, but in the concentration camps of North Africa…

I recommend a book. There is a small booklet, a small one, written by a migrant who spent, I think, three years to come from Guinea to Spain because he was captured, tortured, enslaved. Migrants in those concentration camps in North (Africa): it’s terrible. At this moment – last week – the “Mediterranea Saving Humans” association was doing a job to rescue the migrants who were in the desert between Tunisia and Libya, because they had left them there to die.

That book is calledLittle Brother– in Italian it has the subtitle “Fratellino” – but it can be read in two hours, it’s worth it. Read it and you will see the tragedy of the migrants before embarking.

[At the end of the press conference, he reiterated the recommendation of this book]

4Openness in the Church

[The journalist asked about those who cannot receive the sacraments in the Church; she incorrectly said people with homosexual tendencies cannot receive the sacraments]

You ask me a question that concerns two different points of view: the Church is open for everyone, then there is legislation that regulates life inside the Church. He who is inside follows the legislation. What you say is a simplification: “They cannot participate in the sacraments.” This does not mean that the Church is closed. Everyone meets God on their own way inside the Church, and the Church is mother and guides everyone on their own path. …

There is a kind of gaze that doesn’t understand this insertion of the Church as mother and thinks of it as a kind of “corporation” that you have to do this, or do it in this way and not another way, in order to get in …

I don’t like reduction. This is not ecclesial; it is gnostic. It is like a Gnostic heresy that is somewhat fashionable today. A certain Gnosticism that reduces ecclesial reality, and that doesn’t help. The Church is “mother” receiving everyone, and everyone makes their own way within the Church, without publicity, and this is very important. Thank you for the courage of asking this question. Thank you.

5WYD and ministering to youth

Young people are young, they act youthful, life is like that. But they are seeking to look forward. And they are the future. The idea is to accompany them. The problem is knowing how to accompany them.

And that they shouldn’t detach themselves from their roots. That’s why I insist so much on dialogue between old and young, between grandparents with grandchildren. This dialogue is important, more important than the parent-child dialogue. With grandparents, because it is precisely there that you find the roots. Then young people: they are religious, they are looking for a non-hostile, non-artificial, non-legalistic faith, an encounter with Jesus Christ. And this is not easy. …

For me the WYD was beautiful. Before I caught the plane, I was with the volunteers who numbered 25,000! [It was] a mystical experience, an engagement that was really beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. 

Pope Francis meeting with volunteers of the World Young Day


Youth suicide is a major issue today, the numbers are major. The media does not often say so much or inform (about the issue).

AbuseImmigrationPope FrancisWomenWorld Youth Day
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