Artur Stelmasiak talks with Francesca Ambrogetti, a co-author of an extended interview

ARTUR STELMASIAK: - Conducting an interview with somebody who is going to become pope is like winning a lottery.

FRANCESCA AMBROGETTI: - (laugh)….Me and Sergio Rubin had found Father Jorge Bergoglio, before he was found by cardinals. Although after the year 2005 we did not suspect that he would be elected during the next conclave, we felt that he would be a good Pope.

– Cardinal Bergoglio had resisted for a long time. Why?

– He did not like flaunt himself and avoided interviews. Moreover, in Argentina there was such a period when the cardinal had many enemies. He preferred maintaining humble silence, than having disputes with others and answer these slanders.

– Was the interview supposed to be an attempt of defense of the cardinal against the groundless accusations of the cooperation with the military dictatorship?

– He has never referred to these accusations, but always remained silent. Personally, I wanted to give respect to his will and I did not intend to undertake any talks on it. However, during our meetings the thread of the times of military junta started appear. Sergio Rubin, who knows the situation of the Church in Argentina very well convinced the cardinal that it was worth talking about it.

– These accusations were made mainly by Horacio Verbitsky, the former member of the communist terrorist organization which has deprived many people of their lives. Why did journalists all over the world have such an uncritical attitude towards his accusations?

– Journalists often search for negative and bad news. When the cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope, everybody grabbed this information, without wondering who was making these accusations.

– Does Verbitsky have an influence on the public opinion in Argentina?

– Yes, but only on a little part of the society. He is connected with the radical leftist party, which has influences among authority elites in Argentina. However, the dispute around the past of the Pope Francis subsided quickly.

– The book presents a person of a modest, full of prayer and humble man, who is fighting against his own sins. He tells that he must go to a confessor quickly, because tomorrow he will not be able to celebrate the Holy Mass. Were you moved by his confession?

– An ordinary man would not notice any fault in his behavior. However, even his momentary pride of himself causes the sense of a sin. He says that too high self-confidence is also a sin. Therefore, I perceive a complete coherence in what he says with what he does.

– Trying to understand the Church in Latin America, I notice a note of disappointment with the fact that Vatican intervened on the liberation theology. How did cardinal Bergoglio perceive it?

– He was not an opponent of everything what was proclaimed by the liberation theology. For, its core is the option for the sake of the poor. Noticing the poor and the ill is strongly accentuated in his teaching, as Pope.

– But he also spoke about deviations of some theologians. So, can it be said that cardinal Bergoglio agrees with the social message of the liberation theology, but sees also theological mistakes in it?

– He referred to official documents of the Church. He opposed to Marxist ideology of the liberation theology, but he appreciated its fruits of charitable engagement of priests.

– As the primate of Argentina, he did not avoid social matters. He strongly criticized social and economic policy of the government and its actions in moral issues, like legalization of homosexual couples. Will the Pope also react so strongly?

– The Pope has his own opinions but he does not want to be stereotyped. He used to criticize what needed criticizing. However, he is a tolerant man by nature and open to a dialogue. As a cardinal, he expressed his strong opinion against the legalization of homosexual couples, but I find it hard to judge what he will be saying now as Pope.

– You are an Italian woman. How did your compatriots react to the election of Francis?

– The Italians felt a great emptiness after the death of John Paul II. They loved him as their father. Now, in the new Pope, they saw their father again. They told me that it looks as if John Paul II came back. I think that Francis will be very similar to the Pope from Poland, because he wants to be close to people like the Polish Pope.

– Cardinal Bergoglio avoided travelling. He was an Argentinean patriot, who felt the best in his home town. How will he cope with separation from beloved Buenos Aires for his whole life?

– His family comes from Italy and here some of his relatives live. Once he said that his place on the Earth was Buenos Aires, but maybe in the future, he would say the same about Rome.

– Francis says that Christianity will survive and will triumph. Today it is not the universal opinion , because most people think that the Church is in defensive. How does he find strength for such optimism?

– This optimism comes from his faith. I have never met a person of such deep faith.

– Cardinal Bergoglio says that ‘he likes being a priest’. Priesthood gives him happiness. Will he like being Pope?

– He treats Papacy as the continuation of his priesthood. When I met with the Pope Francis in Rome, I told him what the ordinary parish priest looks like. He answered me that it was the most beautiful compliment which I could every tell him. Now, he would like to be a good parish priest for all people.

– And how you, as the co-author of the interview with the future Pope, feel in the role of his ‘spokeswoman’?

– No, I do not feel his spokeswoman… (laugh). Francis has his spokesman and I was only lucky to meet him regularly for nearly two years. I am glad that thanks to my journalistic work, the world can get to know the wonderful man and Pope.


"Niedziela" 25/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl