On Thursday, September 19, Jesuit publications worldwide published an extensive interview with Pope Francis. The interview is being widely discussed in news outlets and blogs, with special focus being given to his statements on papal reform (in both attitude and structure), hot topics like abortion and gay marriage, and women in church leadership. While Francis addresses these controversial issues head on, they are not the full substance of the wide-ranging interview.
What all did Antonio Spadaro and the pope really talk about?
We've heard countless reports of Pope Francis's humility: his forgoing the luxurious, bulletproof popemobile for a vintage Renault 4, and his living in a Vatican guest room rather than the Apostolic Palace. But in this interview, we encounter a new dimension of the pope's modesty.
Spadaro asks Pope Francis point-blank, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?" The pope's answer is shocking: "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. … I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance." It is striking, on a personal level, that the pope would declare himself first and foremost as a sinner. After all, he is the Holy Father, the head of the Catholic Church. Though many Christian leaders are reluctant to speak publically about their shortcomings, the pope nevertheless recognizes his tendencies as a sinner, and confesses wholehearted trust in God's unending grace. And he states that penance is a response to God's grace, not the mechanism that activates God's grace.
The pope was also honest about his past leadership ...