Pope discuss death penalty and nuclear arms with journalists

Pope Francis addressing journalists during the return flight from Tokyo to Rome

During the Pope’s In-flight Press Conference returning from his 32nd Apostolic Trip to Japan and Thailand, the Holy Father touched on several subjects including the death penalty and nuclear arms.

This trip had great personal significance for the Holy Father who as a young Jesuit dreamed of going to Japan as a missionary, and who also in Thailand was able to reunite with his cousin, a religious sister who is a missionary there, and assisted during the trip, served as a translator.

The Holy Father acknowledged how different Thailand and Japan are from one another. While both nations have very small Catholic populations, both less than 1%, Thailand is very poor whereas Japan enjoys economic prosperity and wellbeing.

Addressing various questions on nuclear weapons, Pope Francis decried: “Hiroshima was a true human catechesis on cruelty.”

At a historic interfaith gathering in Japan the Pope listened to victims one by one on Sunday evening, as well as to Nagasaki during the day, the country’s Christian capital, where he also prayed, offered words of comfort, and celebrated Mass.

Catechesis on Cruelty

“If you just go to Nagasaki, yes, ok: Christians, the atomic bomb, and there you stop.  But to go to Hiroshima, is only the atomic bomb because it’s not a Christian city like Nagasaki.  That’s why I wanted to go to both.  It’s true both suffered an atomic disaster. Hiroshima was a true human catechesis on cruelty. Cruelty.”

When Pope John Paul II visited Hiroshima, he made an appeal for peace which sounded an alarm against the nuclear arms race. During Pope Francis’ discourse there, he reminded all present that using and possessing nuclear arms, is “immoral.”

Nagasaki made him think of its history of martyrs and its being the country’s Catholic center, but the time in Hiroshima really made him reflect on the bombing and the harm inflict. “The experience of Hiroshima,” he said, for him “was very touching.”

A Threat to Humanity

Reiterating the use—and not only—but also the possession—of nuclear arms is immoral, the Roman Pontiff warned: “the folly of one person could destroy humanity.”

With an “accident of possession or the folly of some leader,” Francis stressed, “the folly of one person could destroy humanity.  Let’s think of what Einstein said:  the Fourth World War will be fought with sticks and stones.”

The Holy Father warned that even the mere possession, can – and has led—to catastrophic events, recalling how exacerbated had been the triple disaster on March 11, 2011, in Fukushima which claimed the lives of at least 20,000 and displaced some 200,000 others, with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

While the majority of the press conference was dedicated to discussing the trip to both Asian nations, he also responded to questions on Hong Kong, financial scandals in the Vatican, Latin America being “in flames” and more.

A Japanese journalist inquired about the fact that Pope Francis did not meet with during the Mass at the Tokyo Dome the individual who was condemned to death. “I did not know until afterward. I did not know about that individual,” the Pope clarified.

The death penalty, the Pope reminded, is immoral and cannot be done.

Not Only Hong Kong

The Holy Father also responded to a question about Hong Kong, noting such a phenomenon is not an issue limited to Hong Kong but something more general.

“Think about Chile, think about France – the democratic France – one year with the yellow jackets. Think about Nicaragua. Think of other Latin American countries”

Phil Pullella of Reuters asked about Vatican financial reform, to which the Pope expressed how those five individuals, who were suspended following the Vatican raids following a mandate by the Vatican prosecutors and whose identities were revealed by Italian media reports — would soon be questioned and interrogated to see if they had been guilty or not.

The Pope, again, reiterated that in all cases one must always begin with a presumption of innocence.

Reflecting on recent Vatican financial scandals, he said that he is happy because “everything has been clarified by internal mechanisms which are starting to work.”

Pope Francis also applauded Benedict XVI’s efforts to curb corruption during his pontificate.

Latin America in Flames

Valentina Alazraki of Televisa addressed how “Latin America is in flames,” and asked the Pontiff specifically his analysis of the situation and if he is in some way reacting to it.

Francis confirmed immediately that the situation in the country is “in flames”, but noted that he has not been able to follow closely enough to give a full analysis. He did however express his closeness to all involved, and acknowledged ways the Holy See has tried to help.

The Holy Father also thanked two female reporters—Alazraki and Franca Giansoldati of Il Messaggero for their books on themes close to his heart, including on the environment. “Women work more and are more capable than men,” he stressed.