Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Holy Family: what Pope Francis actually said ..... (and Pope Benedict)

Before putting the homily of Pope Francis for the Feast of the Holy Family alongside Pope Benedict XVI's account of the finding of Jesus in the Temple in his book on the Infancy Narratives, it is worth noting this from the very last section of Pope Benedict's account:
It is also important to note what Luke says about Jesus' growth not only in stature, but also in wisdom. On the one hand, the answer of the twelve-year-old made it clear that he knew the Father - God - intimately ....He lives in his presence. He sees him. As Saint John says, Jesus is the only one who rests in the Father's heart and is therefore able to make him known ...
And yet it is also true that his wisdom grows. As a human being, he does not live in some abstract omniscience, but he is rooted in a concrete history, a place and time, in the different phases of human life, and this is what gives concrete shape to his knowledge. So it emerges clearly that he thought and learned in human fashion.
So, perhaps, even accepting the theological audacity of the suggestion contained in Pope Francis homily, does Jesus learn for us how to seek forgiveness?

If Pope Benedict's account (understandable both because of his previous background and of the context of a published book) is that of the theologian, that of Pope Francis (again understandable because of his previous background as a Bishop) is that of a practically minded pastor.

For Benedict, the pilgrimage of the Holy Family to a meeting with God in the Temple at the three great Jewish feasts represents a faithfulness to the pilgrim community of the whole people of Israel to its encounter with God in the Temple. For Pope Francis, the reference is to the pilgrimages undertaken by whole families to places of popular piety - or to enter through the Holy Door during this Year of Mercy:
Indeed, we could say that family life is a series of pilgrimages, both small and big.
Pope Francis then develops the theme to refer to the pilgrimage of "education in prayer" that was part of the life of the Holy Family and should be a part of the life of every family. He refers, too, to the "pilgrimage of every day life", encouraging parents to bless their children (that is, to entrust them to God so that he might care for them through the day) and to pray a short grace at meal times.

Pope Benedict, on the other hand, identifies a theological import in the dialogue between Mary and Jesus when they meet each other again in the Temple: Mary is corrected, so that God the Father is recognised as Jesus' true Father rather than Joseph; and that Jesus "must" be about his Father's business establishes a link between this event of the finding in the Temple and the "must" that characterises Jesus acceptance of his suffering and death. The apparent disobedience to Mary and Joseph is in fact a manifestation of his filial obedience to the Father. Following Rene Laurentin, Pope Benedict also suggests the experience of three days absence of Jesus is part of an arc connecting the first Passover of Jesus earthly life to his final Passover on Calvary.

Pope Francis makes something much more immediately concrete of Jesus disobedience, suggesting (and the Italian appears to be more suggestive in nature than the English translation which, whilst accurate, communicates a greater degree of certainty than it does of suggestion) that this was something for which Jesus "probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents" (a more literal translation of the Italian might read: for which "probably even Jesus had to ask pardon of his parents"). Pope Francis observes, on this suggestion, that "The Gospel does not say this; but I believe that we can presume it" ("suppose it" might be a more direct translation from the Italian).
Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience.
I do not join those who would accuse Pope Francis of being theologically inexact, or even erroneous. On previous occasions when Pope Francis, speaking off the cuff, has himself suggested that his words might lack theological exactness I have usually found the contrary (see here, for example). The thought that Jesus had himself to learn to seek forgiveness is certainly audacious from the theological point of view; but why should that not, at least at the level of a pastorally oriented suggestion that models in the Holy Family the pilgrimage of our earthly families, be part of what is intended by the Scriptural observation that "Jesus grew in stature and in wisdom"?

UPDATE: Go here for an update to this post.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Abortion and the Catholic Church today

It is not easy to write about the subject of abortion. The ready availability of access to abortion in the UK since 1967 means that, in any audience reading a blog post or listening to a speaker, there will be people with their own experience of abortion. And amongst that audience the experiences will differ from one person to another, and inevitably will differ from that of the writer or speaker. A writer needs to take care, therefore, to be non-judgemental of the experiences and decisions of others, whilst at the same time articulating their own view point.

1. There is no one narrative that captures the experience of a woman who makes a decision for abortion (or, perhaps, a decision against abortion). Each and every woman is an individual in their own individual circumstances, with their different pressures which in some way constrain the freedom of their decision making. Sure, some will be able to exercise a "right to choose" in its fullest sense; but even publications from supporters of legalised abortion (I have one such book on my desk as I write this post) demonstrate the wide variety of different circumstances which lead women to have an abortion.

2. The Catholic Church is not immune from the experience of abortion - it would be extremely naïve to think otherwise. Within a typical Catholic parish it would be surprising if there were not women who have had abortions, or families where the phenomenon of abortion has affected family members. If this is just hidden by a silence, and by a rejection of the women involved, parish communities expose themselves to the same kind of risk that in the past led to the social rejection of unmarried mothers. It may not be an easy thing to do, and it certainly needs to be done with sensitivity; but how a parish community responds to those who have experienced abortion should be part of the ordinary pastoral conversation in which all members of the community play a part, ensuring that when the need arises the reaction is one of loving care rather than rejection.

3. A part of the phenomenon of abortion in the UK is the existence of organisations dedicated to the provision of abortion as a service to women. Some time ago, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, one of the UKs leading abortion providers, published research indicating that some two thirds of its clients who had abortions over a three year period had been using a form of contraception when they became pregnant. More recently, they responded to an enquiry to confirm that some of the women undergoing abortions provided by BPAS had, with explicit consent of the women and on a non-profit basis for both BPAS and the women involved, have donated foetal tissue for research purposes. In addition to the experiences of abortion itself, the phenomenon created by the legal availability of abortion includes a quasi-commercial sector which embeds the phenomenon in different aspects of our contemporary culture.

4. The acceptance of ready access to abortion has become widespread in the years since the 1967 Abortion Act. Though not often the subject of open discussion, it is nevertheless now a feature of our culture. The Catholic Church, however, offers a resistance to this cultural acceptance of abortion, and from time to time it is well for the Church to express this resistance, not as a condemnation of those who have experienced abortion, but as a testimony to her own belief as to what is true about the question of abortion and a challenge to the quasi-commercial sector indicated above. The following is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life......  
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law .... Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.  
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," "by the very commission of the offense" and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
 5. The Year of Mercy that has just begun provides an opportunity for the Church to reach out to those who have been affected by abortion. The provisions for remission of the penalty of excommunication associated with procurement of abortion already present in Canon Law (a Bishop already has authority to allow that remission and, it would appear, in many Dioceses has delegated that authority to the priests of the Diocese; and at an event such as the World Youth Day in Madrid, that authority was extended to all priests hearing confessions in the context of the World Youth Day) have been given to the priests who will act as "Missionaries of Mercy" during the coming year. In my own diocese, one of the events for the Year of Mercy is to be dedicated to those affected by abortion. In this way, the scope of mercy to which the Catechism refers can be made manifest in a special way.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas - according to Jeremy Corbyn

When one reads Jeremy Corbyn's counterpart to David Cameron's Christmas message, which appeared in the Sunday Mirror on 19th December, one can appreciate a political dimension of Mr Cameron's observations about Britain as a Christian country and his affirmation of the birth of God's only Son. There would appear to be a deliberate establishing of clear water between the atheism, or at best agnosticism, of Labour/Jeremy Corbyn and a Christian faith of Conservative/David Cameron.

And that is an interesting development.
Christmas is also a time for reflection, and it is worth considering the poignancy of the Nativity story. It is about offering shelter to a family in need and to those who find themselves refugees fleeing evil....
.... the Christmas story holds up a mirror to us all. "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" - that is the essence of my socialism, summed up in the word "solidarity". Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive". It is a similar maxim that inspired our party: "From each according to their means, to each according to their needs". 
 For the Christian believer, however, the Nativity story is not about offering shelter to a family in need or to refugees fleeing evil. That represents an utter and complete derogation from what a Christian celebrates at Christmas: see my post God is with us!  I think we should be generous towards Mr Corbyn's use of the word "story", as we should not expect a non-believer to affirm that which he does not believe. However, I am inclined to be rather less generous towards his mis-representation of the content of Christian belief. And more generous towards Mr Cameron for his countering of it in his own Christmas message.

There is a much more positive observation to be made about Mr Corbyn's quotation of the "Golden Rule" of doing unto others what you would want them to do to you. This represents the possibility of dialogue and does, for example, represent a foundational term in the spirituality of unity of the Focolare. Mr Corbyn should, I think, be taken seriously in this regard as a potential partner in dialogue, even with those who would radically disagree with his point of view about Christianity..

Further comment on the two messages: The Cameron and Corbyn Christmas messages – full text and some brief reflections

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Far from divisive: A comment on David Cameron's Christmas message

As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope. I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none.
While David Cameron's Christmas Message in his office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been attacked by secularist commentators, I think there are two, perhaps contrasting, observations to be made about his words quoted above.

Firstly, as Mr Cameron chooses to describe Britain as a "Christian country" he might mean at least three different things, and possibly a mixture of them. He might be referring to the Church of England, established in the legal and cultural framework of Britain as thereby indicating a "Christian country". And that is fair enough, distinguishing as it does the British constitutional arrangement from that of countries such as France or the United States where a principle of laicite or neutrality before any specific religious confession applies. He might be referring to the history of our lands, in which Christian faith has played a prominent part - the "important religious roots" to which he refers. Or he might be referring to the continued existence of Christian life and practice in our country today, the extent of which some at least would challenge as not justifying the descriptor "Christian" applied to the country as a whole.

My own view is that the claim to a Christian stake in the public life of our country today does not arise from past history, and cannot be based on history. The claim arises from the presence of Christian life among the peoples of our country today - and I would want to suggest that it is a more significant presence than the secularists would like to claim.

The second observation is implied in Mr Cameron's words about how the Christian roots and values of Britain have made it a successful home to people of all faiths and of none. The recognition of an established religion (and in the case of the United Kingdom that means the Church of England) recognises for all citizens, be they adherents of that recognised religion or not, a religious dimension to their existence. It is interesting that, even in those countries where state and religion are constitutionally separate, there are some where a significant religious culture continues to exist (in the case of France, for example, it is still generally recognised as being a Catholic country). There is perhaps a particular genius in British history that the recognition of an established religion has come to be accompanied by a freedom for any other religious practice, too, though, of course, it has not always been so.

Far from being divisive, Mr Cameron's recognition of how the specific values and life experience of Christian faith creates a home for those of other faiths and of none is very welcome. For all citizens it represents a useful statement of a place in both public and private life for the religious dimension of the human person, at the level of individuals, at the level of the relations of individuals to others in local communities, and at the level of the nation as a whole.

It is the radical denial of this religious dimension of the person that leaves people spiritually homeless, that is, lacking in hope. It is its recognition that can engender a shared hope across all communities.

Further comment on Mr Cameron's Christmas message: The Cameron and Corbyn Christmas messages – full text and some brief reflections.

God is with us!

Image credit: Philippine Sowerby
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
On them the sun has risen.
At Christmas, the Christian celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, born in a humble stable in Bethlehem, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church n.525)
This unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church n.464).
This is what is celebrated as we kneel during the profession of faith at the words "... and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man".

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

To the Roman Curia: what Pope Francis actually said ....

On the 21st December, Pope Francis met with the workers of the Roman Curia, for the annual exchange of Christmas greetings. I link to the English translation at the Vatican website, but also to the Italian, which I am presuming was the language in which the address was delivered. There are a couple of points where the Italian communicates a nuance that is not successfully translated into the English.

Pope Francis opened his address as follows:
Vi chiedo scusa di non parlare in piedi, ma da alcuni giorni sono sotto l’influsso dell’influenza e non mi sento molto forte. Con il vostro permesso, vi parlo seduto.
Or, in the English translation:
Forgive me for not standing up as I speak to you, but for some days I’ve been suffering from a cold and not feeling too well. With your permission, I’ll speak to you sitting down. 
The "effects of influenza" in Italian have become "suffering from a cold", and "I do not feel very strong" has become "not feeling too well" in the English.

Pope Francis offered his Christmas greetings to his audience, to their co-workers in the service of the Curia and to their families:
I am pleased to offer heartfelt good wishes for a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your co-workers, to the Papal Representatives, and in particular to those who in the past year have completed their service and retired. Let us also remember all those who have gone home to God. My thoughts and my gratitude go to you and to the members of your families.
After referring to his two previous meetings with the Curia on the occasion of Christmas, Pope Francis observed (the "diseases" being a reference to his "catalogue of temptations" of last year's address - and do remember that that catalogue was offered as an examination of conscience in preparation for the celebration of Christmas, with a clear sense of self-inclusion on the part of the Holy Father):
.... diseases and even scandals cannot obscure the efficiency of the services rendered to the Pope and to the entire Church by the Roman Curia, with great effort, responsibility, commitment and dedication, and this is a real source of consolation. Saint Ignatius taught that “it is typical of the evil spirit to instil remorse, sadness and difficulties, and to cause needless worry so as to prevent us from going forward; instead, it is typical of the good spirit to instil courage and energy, consolations and tears, inspirations and serenity, and to lessen and remove every difficulty so as to make us advance on the path of goodness.”
It would be a grave injustice not to express heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism, offering to the Church and the Successor of Peter the assurance of their solidarity and obedience, as well as their constant prayers.  
Moreover, cases of resistance, difficulties and failures on the part of individuals and ministers are so many lessons and opportunities for growth, and never for discouragement. They are opportunities for returning to the essentials, which means being ever more conscious of ourselves, of God and our neighbours, of the sensus Ecclesiae and the sensus fidei.
The central part of Pope Francis' address was then dedicated to an acrostic of the Latin word for mercy, Misericordia, using each letter of the word to indicate a virtue or strength that might be emulated by those who work in the Curia. Pope Francis cites Fr Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit missionary to the Far East, as having done the same thing. I have not yet tracked down Fr Ricci's text, but it may be interesting to place it alongside Pope Francis' address.

[It is Pope Francis' fifth section, entitled in Italian as "Razionalità e amabilità" and in English as "Reasonableness and gentleness" where I feel there is some difference in nuance between the Italian original and the English translation, and perhaps some loss of the essential point being made, namely that an equilibrium is needed between rationality and friendliness in our dealings with others.]

Needless to say, those same virtues or strengths might well be addressed to each and every Catholic whatever their state of life or form of work. Though addressed immediately to the Curia, I think we should take them as addressed to the whole Church, perhaps particularly to those who hold some form of ecclesial office, but also to the lay faithful who could emulate these virtues and strengths in their places of work. Do read them all.

I finish, not with the prayer that Pope Francis cited, but with his citation of St Augustine, earlier in the address:
Christmas is truly the feast of God’s infinite mercy, as Saint Augustine of Hippo tells us: “Could there have been any greater mercy shown to us unhappy men than that which led the Creator of the heavens to come down among us, and the Creator of the earth to take on our mortal body? That same mercy led the Lord of the world to assume the nature of a servant, so that, being himself bread, he would suffer hunger; being himself satiety, he would thirst; being himself power, he would know weakness; being himself salvation, he would experience our woundedness, and being himself life, he would die. All this he did to assuage our hunger, alleviate our longing, strengthen our weaknesses, wipe out our sins and enkindle our charity”.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Silence about persecution and weakening of faith in our own country

... in proclaiming clearly the persecution of Christians in other lands we also affirm this faith in our land. To remain silent about this specific persecution is to neglect and weaken the awareness and role of this faith here.
 The paragraph that struck me from the addresses given by the Prince of Wales and Archbishop Nichols at an Advent reception with Christians from persecuted communities is that cited above, from the few words of Archbishop Nichols.

But the Prince of Wales did give an address that is worth reading, an address which reflects his own immediate experience of meeting with those who have suffered persecution and his own reflection on the historical context of the present day persecution. The address is a thoughtful and communicates a deeply held conviction on the part of Prince Charles:
For, despite what the brainwashed militants would have people believe, Christianity is not a “foreign” religion. As the atmospheric Chapel of St. Ananias in Damascus and countless other holy sites bear witness, Christianity has been part of the rich tapestry of life in the Middle East for two thousand years. And it was the early Middle Eastern church communities in places such as Antioch, Alexandria, Bosra in Syria, and Mesopotamia which eventually brought Christianity to Asia and the West. To take just one example, the Armenian Apostolic Church – which, of course, is the oldest Established national church in the world – traces its origins to the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddaeus. And, ladies and gentleman, it is, perhaps, worth remembering that those of us who are members of the Church of England will be only too familiar with the Nicene Creed, whose words were first formulated in the Middle East in the fourth century. Far from Christianity being a “Western” religion, Christianity was born in – and shaped by – the East…!
The original source for the texts is the website of the Catholic Church in England and Wales; they have also been posted here.

Prince Charles ended his address with the following words:
Above all, ladies and gentlemen – and however inadequate they may be – my special prayers are with you and all those in the Middle East and elsewhere who suffer iniquitous atrocities and perfidious persecution for whatever faith they may belong to.

H/T efpastoremeritus2

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Catholics and Jews: what the pontifical commission actually said .....

The nature of the recently published document of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews "The Gift and the Calling of God are irrevocable" is that of a theological reflection that indicates a certain state of play in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community and also represents a contribution to such dialogue. It is, as you will see below, quite nuanced. The headlines that it attracted - "Vatican rejects "institutional mission work directed at the Jews", and its subordinate headline "New statement says God will save Jewish people even if they do not explicitly believe in Christ" or, at the BBC news website "Catholics should not try to convert Jews, Vatican says" - are actually quite inaccurate to the nuance of the text.

It is worth remembering before reading the extracts below that, in speaking of its mission of evangelisation (cf, for example Pope Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi) , the Catholic Church recognises different stages or "moments" in that mission. Among these are presence in charity and the presence of witness of life, in addition to what are more readily understood stages of explicit primary proclamation followed by systematic catechesis and formation in the Catholic community. If we read the extracts below we should notice that, if the new document offers a discouragement of explicit proclamation directed at the Jews, it nevertheless clearly affirms the part to be played by witness of Catholics to their faith in Christ as part of Jewish-Christian dialogue. It is also worth noting how, because of the particular relation of the Chosen People of the Jewish religion to the Christian Church, the commission suggests that there is a distinctive character to the mission of Catholics towards Jews when compared to that of Catholics towards other, non-Jewish religions. The document does not deny that Catholics have a mission of evangelisation towards the Jewish people; it gives to that mission an appropriate form and context.

I have added the emphasis in the extracts below to draw attention to the nuancing of the original texts that has been missed by the headlines.
37. Another focus for Catholics must continue to be the highly complex theological question of how Christian belief in the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ can be combined in a coherent way with the equally clear statement of faith in the never-revoked covenant of God with Israel. It is the belief of the Church that Christ is the Saviour for all. There cannot be two ways of salvation, therefore, since Christ is also the Redeemer of the Jews in addition to the Gentiles. Here we confront the mystery of God’s work, which is not a matter of missionary efforts to convert Jews, but rather the expectation that the Lord will bring about the hour when we will all be united,"when all peoples will call on God with one voice and ‘serve him shoulder to shoulder’" (Nostra Aetate n.4). .....
40. It is easy to understand that the so–called ‘mission to the Jews’ is a very delicate and sensitive matter for Jews because, in their eyes, it involves the very existence of the Jewish people. This question also proves to be awkward for Christians, because for them the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ and consequently the universal mission of the Church are of fundamental importance. The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah.
41. The concept of mission must be presented correctly in dialogue between Jews and Christians. Christian mission has its origin in the sending of Jesus by the Father. He gives his disciples a share in this call in relation to God’s people of Israel (cf. Mt 10:6) and then as the risen Lord with regard to all nations (cf. Mt 28:19). Thus the people of God attains a new dimension through Jesus, who calls his Church from both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph 2:11-22) on the basis of faith in Christ and by means of baptism, through which there is incorporation into his Body which is the Church ("Lumen gentium", 14).

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The challenge of dialogue in opposing Daesh

By accident, as the House of Commons was debating (or indeed actually voting on) the motion to extend RAF air strikes to Syria yesterday evening, I re-read Fr Julian Carron's article published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera after the earlier Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. It bears re-reading. Do read the whole at the website of Communion and Liberation - The challenge of true dialogue after the attacks in Paris - to put the following extracts in context:
We Europeans have what our forebears desired: Europe as a space of freedom where each person can be what she or he wants. The Old Continent has become a crucible of the most varied cultures, religions and visions of the world.
The events of Paris [ie the Charlie Hebdo attacks, though the reference might equally have application to the more recent attacks] document how this space of freedom should not be taken for granted as self-perpetuating: it can be threatened by those who fear freedom and are willing to impose their own vision of things with violence....
....the problem is primarily within Europe and the most important part is played here at home. The true challenge is cultural, its terrain daily life. When those who abandon their homelands arrive here in search of a better life, when their children are born and become adults in the West, what do they see? Can they find something able to attract their humanity, to challenge their reason and their freedom? The same problem exists for our children: do we have something to offer them that speaks to their search for fulfilment and meaning? In many young people who have grown up in the so-called Western world there reigns a great nothingness, a profound void that constitutes the origin of the desperation that ends up in violence. Just think of the Europeans who go to fight in the ranks of terroristic formations, or of the lost and disoriented life of many young people of our cities. This corrosive void, this far-spreading nothingness, requires a response.
It makes interesting reading compared to my earlier post in which I argued that aerial bombardment did not offer a proportionate - ie correctly directed - resistance to the evil of Daesh.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

On Catholic fundamentalism: what Pope Francis said....

Herewith the question and answer from the press conference in which Pope Francis made his remarks about fundamentalism within the Catholic Church. My own translation, with my emphasis added in the English translation so that I can refer to it below.
(Philippine De Saint-Pierre, responsabile della televisione cattolica francese KTO)
Santo Padre, buona sera. Lei ha reso omaggio alla piattaforma creata dall’Arcivescovo, dall’Imam e dal Pastore di Bangui, e oggi più che mai sappiamo che il fondamentalismo religioso minaccia il pianeta intero: l’abbiamo visto anche a Parigi. Allora, di fronte a questo pericolo Lei pensa che i dignitari religiosi debbano intervenire di più in campo politico?
(Papa Francesco)
Intervenire in campo politico: se vuol dire “fare politica”, no. Faccia il prete, il pastore, l’imam, il rabbino: questa è la sua vocazione. Ma si fa politica indirettamente predicando valori, valori veri, e uno dei valori più grandi è la fratellanza tra noi. Siamo tutti figli di Dio, abbiamo lo stesso Padre. E in questo senso, si deve fare una politica di unità, di riconciliazione… - e una parola che non mi piace, ma devo usarla - di tolleranza, ma non solo tolleranza, convivenza, amicizia! E’ così. Il fondamentalismo è una malattia che c’è in tutte le religioni. Noi cattolici ne abbiamo alcuni, non alcuni, tanti, che credono di avere la verità assoluta e vanno avanti sporcando gli altri con la calunnia, con la diffamazione, e fanno male, fanno male. E questo lo dico perché è la mia Chiesa, anche noi, tutti! E si deve combattere. Il fondamentalismo religioso non è religioso. Perché? Perché manca Dio. E’ idolatrico, come è idolatrico il denaro. Fare politica nel senso di convincere questa gente che ha questa tendenza, è una politica che dobbiamo fare noi leader religiosi. Ma il fondamentalismo che finisce sempre in una tragedia o in reati, è una cosa cattiva, ma ce n’è un po’ in tutte le religioni.
(Question from Philippine De Saint-Pierre, of the French television station KTO) 
 Holy Father, good evening. You have praised the platform created by the Archibishop, the Imam and the Pastor of Bangui, and today, more than ever, we know that religious fundamentalism threatens the whole planet: we have seen this also in Paris. Well, faced with this danger do you think that religious dignitaries must intervene more in the political field?
(Pope Francis)
Intervene in the political field: if that means "to do politics", no. To be a priest, a pastor, an imam, a rabbi: this is their vocation. But they do politics indirectly preaching values, true values, and one of the greater values is brotherhood between us. We are all children of God, we have the same Father. In this sense, we must carry out a politics of unity and reconciliation - it is a word that does not please me, but I have to use it - of tolerance, but not just tolerance, living together, friendship! It's like this. Fundamentalism is a disease that is present in all the religions. We Catholics have some, not some, many, who believe they have the absolute truth and move ahead sullying others with calumny, with defamation, and doing evil, doing evil. And I say this because it is my Church, we as well, all of us! We must fight this. Religious fundamentalism is not religious. Why? Because it leaves out God. It is idolatrous, like the idolatory of money. To do politics in this sense of persuading these people who have this tendency, is a politics that we religious leaders must do. But the fundamentalism that ends always in a tragedy or in offences, is a bad thing, but there is a little of it in all the religions.
Pope Francis' references to idolatory, and to the idolatory of money, contain a reference back to his answer to an earlier question during the press conference, though seen in isolation from that they appear a bit out of context or exaggerated. We can see that a headline to the effect that "Pope Francis condemns Catholic 'fundamentalism'" misses the context that is there when Pope Francis' answer is read as a whole - namely that it represents a situation of fundamentalism as a challenge in all religions, which includes Catholicism. It is also worth noting Pope Francis' understanding of what constitutes fundamentalism - not the claim to absolute truth, but the movement from that claim to truth to an unyielding deprecation of others (cf my emphasis and note the "and" in Pope Francis' words).

Pope Francis' answer - and the wording of the question - also hint at a much wider discussion that might be had about the engagement of religion in the field of politics and power.

[As an aside, it is also possible to recognise in the reference to a "politics of unity and reconciliation" an inspiration that is found in the Movement for Unity in Politics of the Focolare movement.]