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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – In an extensive and wide-ranging interview on Spanish radio, Pope Francis suggested that pronouncing the readings at Mass in a language that is not widely understood, such as Latin, “would be like laughing at the Word of God.” 

 Over the course of the interview, conducted by Carlos Herrera of COPE radio, a broadcasting network owned by the Spanish Catholic Episcopal Conference, Francis touched on many topics, from his decision to limit the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and the Vatican financial corruption scandal, to his recent surgery, the German “Synodal Way,” and even the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Herrera commenced the 90-minute interview by asking Francis about his health, following the Pope’s recent surgery on his large intestine, to which the Pope explained that he has no problems, saying “I lead a totally normal life.” 

But the Pontiff’s ill-health sparked widespread rumors that he might retire the papal office early, especially given that the surgery was so extensive. Francis revealed during the interview that surgeons removed 33cm from his intestine (around 13 inches). 

The Pope initially admitted having no idea that speculation around his resignation was circulating until days after the fact, when COPE’s Vatican correspondent, Eva Fernandez, informed him, after which point he attempted to allay any notion of his impending resignation. “Whenever a Pope is ill, there is always a breeze or a hurricane of conclave,” Francis jokingly commented. 

However, concerns remain over the health of the Pope, with some of his answers to questions of his health only feeding the speculation, such as suggesting that his scheduled trip to Scotland in November “all depends on how I feel at the time.” 

Pope on Afghanistan 

 The conversation soon moved on to the Pope’s diplomatic meetings and political opinions, including a question on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, following the retreat of American soldiers from the region last month. 

“It is a difficult situation,” the Pope said, before imploring “Christians to a special prayer at this time.” Francis quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he described as “one of the great figures of world politics,” as having summed up the situation well: “It is necessary to put an end to the irresponsible policy of intervening from outside and building democracy in other countries, ignoring the traditions of the people.” 

 According to the Associated Press, the Pope actually paraphrased a quotation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, not Merkel. 

Francis defended President Joe Biden’s move to withdraw U.S. troops as “legitimate,” but suggested that “not all eventualities were taken into account here… or it seems, I don’t want to judge.” 

The Vatican Secretariat of State, according to Francis, is “helping or at least offering to help” with individuals displaced by the distressing situation in Afghanistan. “Cardinal Parolin is really the best diplomat I have ever met,” Francis said. 

Traditionis Custodes ‘is simply a constructive reordering’ 

Herrera later turned his attention to the Pope’s recent motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, in which Francis moved to heavily restrict the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum and to monitor those priests and seminarians who wish to celebrate according to the Old Rite much more closely. 

Francis explained that the document was not novel, describing it instead to have a long history, finding its origin in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s request to have an evaluation of the effect of Summorum Pontificum (SP) some years after its promulgation and subsequent upsurge in celebration of the TLM. 

Though the Pope called Benedict’s document promoting the TLM “one of the most beautiful and human pastoral things,” he characterized those who originally wished to preserve the Latin Mass after the Second Vatican Council as harboring “a certain nostalgia.” 

After supposedly a year-long review of his predecessor’s own motu proprio, Francis said “the concern that appeared the most” from his survey to the world’s bishops was that SP originally “was done to help pastorally those who have lived a previous experience,” but now “was being transformed into ideology.” 

Owing to the apparent ideological problems with Latin Mass adherents, as yet not clearly defined by the Pope, Francis said he “had to react with clear norms,” deigning to “put a limit to those who had not lived that experience.” 

“If you read the letter well and read the Decree well, you will see that it is simply a constructive reordering, with pastoral care and avoiding an excess of those who are not,” the Pope said. 

An example of the restrictive measures put in place to limit the TLM which Francis noted was “that the proclamation of the Word be in a language that everyone understands,” i.e., the vernacular. Francis claimed that to proclaim the readings of the Mass in any other way, presumably including in Latin, “would be like laughing at the Word of God.” 

LifeSiteNews spoke to Dr. Joseph Shaw, Oxford University Professor and Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, who said that Francis’ comment against the use of Latin in the Mass readings stems from a misunderstanding of the liturgical tradition. 

“Pope Francis’ comment suggests a kind of ‘mutual incomprehension’ between those attached to the Church’s older and newer liturgies,” Shaw said, adding that “in fact the incomprehension only goes one way.” 

Explaining the rationale behind proclaiming the readings in the Church’s traditional Latin tongue, Shaw noted that “the liturgy is not a purely didactic, rationalist, functionalist endeavor.” Instead, “the proclamation of the lections is part of the worship we offer to God: an offering of His own words, like the singing of the Psalms. This is as well as, not instead of, the understanding of the lections, which, as the Council of Trent recommended, should be later explained in the sermon.” 

Shaw contended that “no one who attends the Old Mass fails to understand the rationale behind proclaiming the lections in Latin,” but expressed a need to “explain the reason the Church has traditionally proclaimed them in a sacred language” to those who may be unfamiliar. 

Continuing, Shaw criticized the Pope for applying an apparent double standard to sacred languages used in the liturgies of the East and West, and those of other religions. 

“I do not think Pope Francis would say that Hindus, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, or the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches are laughing at their sacred books when they proclaim them in a sacred language, usually to congregations with little or no understanding of them. If he did, it would not bode well for ecumenical and interfaith relations.” 

“We should spare a thought for those many millions of Catholics who experience a liturgy they do not understand,” Shaw said, “not because it is in a sacred language which might have some symbolic meaning for them, but in a vernacular language they do not share: like Cantonese Catholics, many African Catholics, and many migrants and refugees.” 

Francis told Herrera that, despite imposing restrictions on the TLM, essentially overturning SP, he in fact sought to “support and consolidate Summorum Pontificum.” Popular Catholic writer Deacon Nick Donnelly doubted that the Pope genuinely wished to support SP, given his decree to suppress the Latin Mass, in comments made on Twitter. “Like all ‘liberals,’ his words mean nothing,” the author wrote. 

Quickly contradicting his express intention to continue along the path forged by Benedict with SP, Francis said that priests wishing to celebrate the TLM now must acquire the permission of Rome, which he said grants such priests a kind of “bi-ritual” status, “[like] a priest who celebrates in the Eastern Rite and the Latin Rite.” 

As noted by Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture, this constitutes a stark move away from Benedict’s understanding of the old and new liturgies as both being legitimate expressions of the Latin Rite, not two separate rites. 

Francis keeps quiet on concerns of German schism 

When asked about the German “Synodal Way,” the Pope did not say much, commenting only that “[t]here is no ill will in many bishops,” despite many German clerics forging ahead with the blessing of same-sex couples and intercommunion with Protestants against the Church’s clear prohibition thereof. 

Francis added that the German bishops’ intentions stem from “a pastoral desire,” but that he sent a letter to them to “express everything I feel about the German synod,” implying the possibility of disagreements with their objectives. However, reports from high-ranking cardinals suggest that the Pope does not wish to correct the errors of the synodal way. 

The Pope later made confusing remarks on abortion, despite originally making a bold statement on euthanasia, recognising that European culture is in a “demographic winter.” Francis described our “throwaway culture” as treating the elderly as “useless” and “a nuisance,” which leads to the tragedy of “[the] discarding of entire peoples.” 

On abortion, however, Francis was much less clear, saying he does “not like to enter into discussions on whether it [abortion] is possible up to here, or whether it is not possible up to there.” Instead of defending the beginning of a human life from the moment of conception, the Pontiff referred to medical literature which allegedly states “that by the third week of conception … all the organs in the embryo are already outlined, even the DNA,” only at this point declaring: “It is a life. A human life.” 

The Pope then rhetorically asked: “Is it licit to eliminate a human life to solve a problem, is it fair to eliminate a human life to solve a problem?” 

Vatican financial scandal 

“I hope with all my heart that he is innocent,” Francis said of disgraced Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who stands accused of embezzlement of Vatican funds and of abusing his office while sostituto in the Secretariat of State.  

Becciu was made a cardinal by Francis in June 2018, but resigned his privileges after being implicated in the financial scandal in September 2020. Becciu has maintained his “absolute innocence” since being accused, claiming that he is “the victim of a conspiracy.”  

Francis described Becciu as “a collaborator of mine [who] helped me a lot. He is a person whom I have a certain esteem as a person, that is to say that my wish is that he turns out well.” Still, Becciu “goes to trial according to Vatican law,” he said, adding that, “[i]n any case, justice will decide.”  

While the Pope said that “at least at first sight, it seems that there is corruption,” he noted that the “consolidation of justice in the Vatican state” has allowed the system to become more independent, describing the development as “progress.”