Their conversation brought the journalist to his knees
The Argentinian reporter Alfredo Leuco had written Pope Francis an open letter in which he respectfully questioned the Pope for having received President Cristina Kirchner during her electoral campaign: here is the Pope’s moving answer.
Alfredo Leuco was celebrating his 60th birthday in the port city of Saint Peter in the province of Buenos Aires when he received a message via Whatsapp from St. Peter’s in Rome.
Guillermo Karcher, an Argentinian protocol officer in the Vatican and a close associate of Pope Francis, asked Karcher for his email address and told him that Pope Francis had read his open letter to the Pope, in which Leuco communicated to Francis that he, along with various other journalists and, according to him, a great segmnet of public opinion, disagreed with the pope’s decision to receive [Argentine President] Cristina Kirchner, this time in the context of her electoral campaign.
A few minutes later, Leuco saw that he had voicemail from a call that he couldn’t receive due to poor cell phone reception. As the message said, it was from “Father Bergoglio, Francis,” to thank him for his letter. A few hours later the phone call came through and they were able to converse.
Both on his program on Radio Mitre, Tiene la Palabara, and on the program which he recently started hosting on the Argentinian TV network TN with his son Diego (also a journalist), Los Leucos, Alfredo Leuco shared some of the details of a conversation that almost made the journalist faint.
Leuco’s long message, initially read as an editorial piece on his radio program on Thursday, April 9, quickly created a polemic on social networks and other journalistic media.
Leuco introduced himself saying, “I am not a believer, but I admire believers. And I believe in you and in the values you preach; in your Franciscan austerity, in your defense of the weakest and poorest, in coherence of life and thought, in your bid to create peace in the world and fraternal ecumenism among religions.”
These statements by Leuco are sincere and recognized as such, given that he doesn’t usually voice baseless commentaries on the Church, which are so common among famous political journalists.
“You confess that you are a sinner. You recognize that you are not God and therefore are not perfect. That gives me courage to express to you my humble disagreement with your decision to receive a visit from Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for a fifth time. I am a journalist; I seek the truth, although I may never discover it completely, and my mission in life is to recount what happens or what I believe is happening and what I think about things,” he continued.
“I trust you can forgive my audacity. But down here, at the end of the earth and with my feet on the ground, I can tell you that a great number of Argentinians are upset, disgusted or disillusioned with the new visit that you scheduled for Cristina on June 7,” Leuco continued.
Without harsh words and in a tone for which Francis himself was thankful, Leuco went on: “She will be a candidate for governor or for a seat as a representative, and if that doesn’t happen, she will personally lead her party’s candidates around the country. She is a powerful woman from every perspective, and appearing next to her is a great help that is added to the Kirchners’ use of the state system for their own benefit.”
“Allow me to say to you, Pope Francis, whom I admire: You ask for clean hands, short nails, and ethics for public service, and this is the most corrupt government in the history of Argentina,” the journalist proclaimed. “You talk about helping the poor and this government stopped measuring poverty. You encourage the path of encounter and dialogue, and this government normalized hatred.”
The Pope’s Answer
The letter, longer that what we have briefly summarized here, quickly passed from the radio to paper, and two days later arrived in Pope Francis’ hands.
In their conversation, according to Leuco, the Pope thanked him for the respect and honesty with which he wrote.
Francis insisted that Leuco, despite his emotion, tell him what he thought. According to Leuco, when the Pope answered he only asked him to keep two things in confidence: some anecdotes about how he felt used by the political class, and some information that in no way affected the content of the open letter.
Accommodating the journalist’s request to be able to write down this message of thanks for criticism in a country as polarized as Argentina, the Pope not only agreed; he took the initiative to write it down in an email so that there would not be any doubts.
While the Pope thanked him for his sincere questioning, thousands of Twitter accounts, mostly users on the side of the government, harshly criticized Leuco. But Francis had a different attitude in the face of Leuco’s respectful approach.
In an email received a few hours later, Francis wrote to him: “I received your letter of the past 9th of April (Open letter to Pope Francis) and I thank you with all my heart for what you have written.”
“Your calm tone shows your desire to communicate in a straightforward way, and disagreements should be said peacefully and smoothly. There is not one sign of aggression there, and no haughty words. This attitude edifies, unites, and is constructive. Thank you, thank you very much,” the Pope continues.
And he shares a thought: “I will allow myself to share something with you. When I finished reading your letter, one of the Beatitudes came to my mind: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ (Mt. 5:4) Meekness, that attitude so linked to patience, to listening, to weighing things carefully and which – at times – is confused with timidity in the collective imagination. But that is not the case: in reality, it is a virtue of the strong. Thank you again.”
Francis ends his message, as always, asking for prayers. Leuco, of Jewish ancestry, was moved, and recounted on his programs, almost with shame, that he didn’t know how to pray. But he said that he was going to ask to friends who are rabbis to teach him how to pray.