The pope admitted that he was puzzled a few weeks ago when U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke told a reporter that the Catholic Church under Francis' direction is a “ship without a rudder.”
“Those expressions strike me as odd. I am not aware of anybody using them. The media quoted them. However, until I can ask the people involved, ‘Have you said this?’ I will have brotherly doubts,” he told the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion last week, in the first one-one-interview with a Latin American outlet.
From the start I said to myself: ‘Jorge, don't change, just keep on being yourself, because to change at your age would be to make a fool of yourself'.
- Pope Francis
The a 50-minute sit-down with reporter Elisabetta Piqué took place Thursday afternoon at the Santa Marta mansion, where he has resided since becoming pope in March 2013.
“Somebody did say to me once… ‘Discernment is good for us, but we need things to be clearer.’ And I answered, ‘Look, I wrote an encyclical, true enough, it was a big job, and an Apostolic Exhortation, I'm permanently making statements, giving homilies; that's teaching. That's what I think, not what the media say that I think.’”
According to La Nacion, Pope Francis appeared to be “relaxed and in a good mood,” despite being at the end of a busy workday. When asked if he was at all worried by the signals of “resistance connected with his cleansing efforts” and his restructuring of the Roman Curia, he said that to him “resistance means different points of view, not something dirty.”
“Resistance is now evident. And that is a good sign for me, getting the resistance out into the open, no stealthy mumbling when there is disagreement. It's healthy to get things out into the open, it's very healthy,” he said.
“I am not worried. It all seems normal to me, if there were no difference of opinions, that wouldn't be normal."
Pope Francis denied that he removed Cardinal Burke as the leader of the Vatican’s highest court and appointed him to a ceremonial position because the cardinal raised concerns about the pope's leadership.
He said Cardinal Burke expressed gratitude when offered to become chaplain of the Knights of Malta, a charity group.
“We needed a smart American who would know how to get around and I thought of him for that position. I suggested this to him long before the synod.… He thanked me in very good terms and accepted my offer. I even think he liked it because he is a man who gets around a lot. He does a lot of travelling and would surely be busy there. It is therefore not true that I removed him because of how he had behaved in the synod,” he told the Argentinian paper.
At another point during the interview, he revealed he is planning to visit three Latin American countries next year, but did not say which. He also clarified he plans to visit his home country in 2016 but not for the Eucharistic Congress in Tucumán to be held in July.
As for his upcoming 78th birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 17, the pope said that since it falls on a day when there is no mass, he will have lunch with all the staff and it “will be just another day.”
In yet another display of his storied humility, Francis said that becoming pope was the last thing on his mind 21 months ago.
“When I came here I had to start all over again, All this was new. From the start I said to myself, ‘Jorge, don't change, just keep on being yourself, because to change at your age would be to make a fool of yourself,’" he said. “That's why I've always kept on doing what I used to do in Buenos Aires. Perhaps even making my old mistakes.”