Truth is an Encounter

Press Meeting

It is a feeling shared by everyone, believer or not: the absolute proximity of Pope Francis to our lives. We can understand the reasons and motivations, understand how much is changing and has changed in the Church, starting from a reading of his homilies at Saint Martha and from the long interview he granted to father Antonio Spadaro, Director of the periodical “La Civilità Cattolica.” These themes emerged today at the conference “Truth is an encounter” (Salone Intesa Sanpaolo – D5) with CL spokesperson Alberto Savorana in a dialogue with Spadaro. He was the one to interview Pope Francis.
The Pope’s tenderness and sensibility is what has moved Spadaro the most: “The first thing I received from the Pope is a hug, which was true and sincere. I spent three afternoons with him and it was a profound human and spiritual experience. When you speak to him, you get the impression of sitting on a volcano. It is a sort of calm chaos. He doesn’t offer you anything prepackaged. He doesn’t answer questions, but he answers you. He is aware of the absolute uniqueness of each encounter.”
What surprised father Spadaro the most was how much the thinking of the Pope has always been open to reality. A reality that always prevails over ideas. In fact, when asked “who is a Jesuit?” (referring to the order the Pope belongs to), he answered: “He is a person with an incomplete thought, who looks to the horizon, while always keeping Christ at the center.” Here is a Pope without a rigid “project” , or plan. As Spadaro recounted: “He doesn’t have an ideological view of reality, but an experiential one.” The Pope invites us to not confuse an idolatry of our thoughts with religious fervor. The three main points of Christian identity for him are: the obligation to adore God and love each other, to be at service of each other, and to show with our lives “not only in what we believe, but in what we hope.”
Francis lives in Saint Martha because he wants to be in contact with people. He chooses to stay in reality and to live it without filters or mediations. For the Pope, the practice – not the concept – of testimony is essential: “If you are talking with an atheist, you can read him or her a whole library about faith, but he or she will not find faith. But, if in front of him or her there is someone who testifies to mercy and love, this produces an unsettling which opens the door to the Holy Spirit, to the possibility of feeling the mercy of God.”
Father Spadaro, recounted that Pope Francis is honest about himself to the extreme. “I am a sinner forgiven by the Lord, who has felt the touch of mercy,” said the Pope during the interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica”. And then: “We must learn to remain open to mercy. Only one who is touched by mercy can have a good relationship with the Lord.” For the Pope, mercy is the caress of God on one’s sin. It creates in a person a sense of wonder and mystery, which are conditions to open the heart to a relationship with Christ.
A sense of the Pope’s personality is expressed in his constant questions to the Church, to believers, to all people. According to Spadaro, Francis is the herald of an open thought. He wants the whole Church to speak about current themes, topics, and problems. He wants sharing and participation. His conception is of a Church that is a torch, not a lighthouse. The lighthouse indicates the route, illuminates the rough waters and the harbor; but it is fixed. On the other hand, to be a torch means to be on a path, to accompany cultural and social processes. The torch walks with humanity, even if it is walking towards the depths, but it can illuminate before it falls.
In this attitude, Spadaro and Savorana find an absolute continuity between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. “Benedict understood the gravity of our times, the rapid changes and the enormous challenges which the Church has to face,” said the Jesuit. “He started a new path in order to pass the ‘torch’ to Francis.”
From here arises the necessity of a new pastoral approach, a new way to propose and witness to the Gospel. Spadaro recalled Pope Francis’ homily on the parable the good shepherd. It is no longer that the sheep pen has 99 sheep and one is lost. The situation has changed. In the sheep pen there is now only one sheep. For that reason he speaks about a Church with open doors. Not only in order to make people enter, but to let Christ out and to be in the world.”
“We live in times and in a in which we are bombarded by answers. One search engine is enough but we have millions of them, about every problem,” concluded Spadaro. “Nowadays the Gospel cannot be simply a book for answers, which it obviously contains; it must be a book of questions, which provokes the search of authentic answers of truth.”
The infinite scandal of Christ’s love for man provokes us to ask and to seek. Only by asking we can encounter an authentic answer. This is the greatest and the most important provocation that the Holy Father offers us all today.

(C.B., L.T.)