· Interview with Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel after meeting with Pope Francis ·
A strong embrace, one full of affection. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel smiles as he looks at the picture of perhaps the most intense moment of his meeting with Pope Francis. At 81-years-old, he has spent his life defending human rights. This man, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, has been imprisoned and subjected to torture, still has a kind of child-like excitement. Only a few hours had passed since his audience in the Vatican, when he recalled to our newspaper the joy of having been able to greet his fellow countryman, the one the Cardinals electors went to “ends of the earth” to elect as Bishop of Rome. Or maybe it was the “beginning of the earth”, he said, “it depends your point of view”.
What was your meeting with Pope Francis like?
We were both very excited. The election of Pope Francis represents for me grace. It is a strong sign of the Spirit which has come at a moment in which the Church and the world feel a great need for renewal, spirituality and service to society.
From Buenos Aires to Rome: who is Pope Bergoglio?
He is above all a pastor. Even in Argentina, in spite of the his responsibilities as a Jesuit and then in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and the bishops' conference, he has always been a serene and shy man, constantly attentive to the problems of the country and especially of the people.
After his election a defamatory campaign began against the Pontiff which you immediately shut down. Who is afraid of Pope Francis?
It is true, some tried to do this. But since the accusations were completely unfounded I felt the need to to prove them wrong. Pope Francis did not have anything to do with the military dictatorship. And I am not the only one to say this. This is true according to the president of the Supreme Court of Justice in Argentina. There are no shadows in Bergoglio's past. And in no way can anyone say that he was involved with the dictatorship. On the contrary he fought on behalf of the missing people and of the persecuted. However not all of his speeches were heard. The military said “yes” to everyone but they then did the contrary. I believe the defamatory campaign against Pope Francis was fueled by various political and ideological trends.
At the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis spoke of a Church of the poor and for the poor and he called us to protect the gifts of creation.
Yes, this call for the poor is something that has characterized his life. The Gospel speaks of the poor, those whom he always met with great humility. And now the Pope tells us that the whole Church must live in poverty and humility. Then there is the challenge of defending creation. I believe that this too is a field where collaboration must increase among believers.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 17, 2019
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