ROME — Considered the hottest interview subject for many journalists around the world, Pope Francis gave his latest exclusive to Marc, who now makes a living selling Straatnieuws, a paper sold by homeless and unemployed people in the Netherlands.
In a wide-ranging interview published around the same time in several such street papers around the world, Francis wades into several issues – including, indirectly, the implications of two recent books on Vatican financial scandals.
“The temptation of corruption is ever present, in both politics and in the Church,” Francis said during the interview, which was conducted Oct. 27 and published Friday.
Francis argued that the Church’s credibility is at stake in terms of how it manages its money.
“The Church must speak with the truth, but also with … the testimony of poverty,” the pontiff said. “If a believer speaks about poverty, and leads the life of a pharaoh – this cannot be done.”
Francis told the story of a public minister he knows from his own country, Argentina, who once admitted that for everything donated by those offering assistance, he kept up to 65 percent.
“This is corruption: a piece for me, and another piece for me,” Francis said.
The pontiff also spoke about Church and finances during his daily morning Mass on Friday, saying clergy are called to serve rather than to behave like businessmen.
“A Church focused on business doesn’t minister or serve, but uses others,” Francis said.
During the Mass the pontiff also assailed “climbers attached to money” who have “reached a status and live with no honesty.”
In the interview with the street paper, Francis was asked about the idea of selling off the Vatican’s wealth. He replied that it’s “an easy question” because “these aren’t treasures of the Church, but of humanity.”
“For example, if tomorrow I say Michelangelo’s Pieta is for sale, it can’t be done, because it’s not property of the Church,” Francis said. “It’s in a church, but it belongs to humanity.”
The pope added that everything that is disposable – such as the gifts he receives, or cars that are not being used – has already been sold off or given as prizes in the papal lottery.
The proceeds from that lottery, he added, are distributed to the poor through Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the man appointed by Francis as his personal representative in aiding the less fortunate in Rome.
Francis also said that the Church uses its wealth to help the poor, citing the recent example of his decision to wire US $54,000 to Congo to build three schools.
The interview was made possible thanks to the International Network of Street Papers, which in the past has had exclusive Q&A sessions with such luminaries as the Dalai Lama and Bob Dylan.
This is not the first time Francis has chosen a media outlet representing the underprivileged to relay his message. In 2014, for instance, the pontiff gave an interview to an Argentine radio station called “Bajo Flores,” which broadcasts from a local slum.