This morning I listened to RSI Rete Uno, the Swiss Italian Radio, and a very happy Swiss Italian journalist talked about his recent interview with Pope Francis in the occasion of his 10-Year pontificate. Please note that an interview with the Pope is a rare event, and that in this occasion there was one – and one only – chosen media. The journalist, Paolo Rodari, was incredulous himself for being chosen, and sounded really in a good mood recalling some moments of the meeting.
We had met shortly twice before, and Pope Francis remembered that I told him that my son would make a movie, so he asked me about it. And before starting the interview, he had a look at the table with “tramezzini” (small sandwiches) and said: have you all eaten? Before we start working I want to check that everybody is fine, and please give me a moment to greet everybody, one by one.
When asked by another radio journalist how exactly he could obtain the official interview, Rodari said that it was a very long and complicated story, but it started years ago, when he met a vaticanist and made friends with him.
Personally I also wonder if this decision was partly helped by the fact that, recently, Pope Francis met some Swiss philanthropists who donated funds for the renovation of the Barracks of the Swiss ; for sure Switzerland has always been very present in the Vatican.
Rodari finished his talk saying that his favorite part was when the Pope recalled a trip he did years ago. He was going back to Italy from a visit to Germany and passed through Switzerland. At one point he and his team got lost. He asked to stop the car, lowered the car window, and tried to speak High German to a local, who answered in Swiss German.
Not even the Pope can understand Swiss German, too difficult!
He said, laughing.
The full interview will be on Swiss Italian television on Sunday, 12 March and will also be available online on www.rsi.ch and on the app Play RSI.
Here are some of the questions answered by the Pope, translated by me from the original article by RSI.
Santo Padre, have you changed in these 10 years?
“I am old. I have less physical resistance. My knee problem was a humiliation, even though it’s healing well now”.
Were you annoyed by using a wheelchair?
“It was embarrassing”.
Many people describe you like the Pope of the last ones. Do you feel like that?
“It’s true I have a preference for those that are abandoned, but that doesn’t mean that I dismiss others. The poor is Jesus favorite. But Jesus doesn’t send away the rich”.
Do you miss anything of your preceding life?
“Walking, going through the city. I used to walk a lot, use the bus, the subway, I was always in the middle of people”.
What do you think about Europe?
“Right now it’s run by a lot of young politicians, Chancellors and ministers. I always tell them: talk together. That guy is left-wing, you are right-wing, but you are both young, just talk and communicate. It’s the moment for young people to have a real conversation”.
What does a Pope from almost the end of the world bring?
“You remind me of something written by an Argentinian philosopher, Amelia Podetti: reality is best seen from the extremes, not from the centre. From a distance, once can understand universality. It’s a social, political and philosophical principle”.
What do you remember of the lockdown period, and your prayer in the middle of a completely empty Piazza San Pietro?
“It was raining, there were no people. I felt that the Lord was there. It was something the Lord wanted to make us understand the tragedy, the solitude, the dark, the plague”.
There are different wars in the world, right now. Why do we have such difficulty in understanding this drama?
“In a little more than a hundred years there have been three World Wars. This is a World War too. It started in pieces, but now nobody can say anymore it’s not one. All the important centres of power are involved. The battlefield is Ukraine. There, everybody is fighting, and that makes me think about the arms industry. A technician once told me: if we stop making weapons for a year, we could stop world hunger. It’s a market. We make war, we sell old weapons, we try new ones”.
Before the Ukraine war you met Putin many times. If you could meet him today, what would you tell him?
“I would speak openly and clearly to him, as I do in public. He is a very well educated man. The second day of the war I went to the Russian Embassy to say I was available to go to Russia, provided Putin could give me a window of opportunity to negotiate. Lavrov wrote back saying thank you, but it’s not the right moment for that. Putin knows I am available”.