Replying to questions and giving interviews are a “pastoral risk” Pope Francis said he is prepared to take, because it is the best way to know and respond to people’s real concerns.
“I know this can make me vulnerable, but it is a risk I want to take,” the Pope wrote in the introduction to a new book collecting transcripts of question-and-answer sessions he has held all over the world.
The collection in Italian, “Adesso Fate le Vostre Domande” (“Now, Ask Your Questions”), was edited by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro and scheduled for release on 19 October. The Pope’s introduction was published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
“I want a church that knows how to enter into people’s conversations, that knows how to dialogue,” Pope Francis wrote.
The model is the Gospel account of the risen Lord’s meeting with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “The Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples who are walking discouraged,” he said. “For me, the interview is part of this conversation the church is having with men and women today.”
The interviews and Q&A sessions “always have a pastoral value,” Pope Francis said, and are an important part of his ministry, just like inviting a small group of people to his early morning Mass each day.
The chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives, “is, let’s say, my parish. I need that communication with people.”
And, in interviews, the journalists often ask the questions that are on the minds of the faithful, he said.
The most regular appointment he has for responding to questions is on the flights back to Rome from his foreign trips when he holds a news conference with the journalists who travel with him.
“There, too, on those trips, I like to look people in the eye and respond to their questions sincerely,” he wrote. “I know that I have to be prudent, and I hope I am. I always pray to the Holy Spirit before I start listening to the questions and responding.”
His favourite interviews, he said, are with small, neighbourhood newspapers and magazines. “There I feel even more at ease,” the Pope said. “In fact, in those cases I really am listening to the questions and concerns of common people. I try to respond spontaneously, in a conversation I hope is understandable, and not with rigid formulas.”
“For me,” he said, “interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson.”
Even when the questions are submitted in advance, the Pope said he does not prepare his answers. Watching the person ask the question and responding directly is important.
“Yes, I am afraid of being misinterpreted,” he said. “But, I repeat, I want to run this pastoral risk.”