In a recent interview with an Argentine newspaper, Pope Francis said he misses the “tranquillity of walking in the streets” and that he’s always been “callejero” – a man of the city.
The interview was published May 24, and is the result of a 45 minute meeting between the pontiff and a journalist and photographer from “La voz del Pueblo.” They spoke in the Vatican’s Saint Martha residence where the Pope lives and celebrates daily Mass.
Pope Francis said that since being elected Pope, he misses being able to “go out in the streets,” or even “going to a pizzeria to eat a good pizza.” When the journalist told him that he can always order a delivery pizza, he responded: “it is not the same thing.”
“I have always been a ‘callejero.’ When I was cardinal, I loved walking the streets, and taking buses and the underground,” he said.
Pope Francis added that he is “delighted by the city. I am a citizen in my soul.”
The Holy Father also explained his need to stay in touch with people. “I enjoy the general audiences, both from a spiritual and from a human point of view. I get along well with people, I am in tune with people, it is just like my life is enveloped by people,” the Pope said.
He noted that “from a psychological point of view, I cannot live without people, I am not useful as monk.” The Pope said that this is the reason why he chose to live in the Saint Martha residence.
“There are 210 rooms. We are 40 living there and working for the Holy See, while the rest of people are guests, bishops, priests, lay people who pass and are accommodated here, and I like this a lot. Coming here, eating in the refectory where everybody eats, celebrating Mass there, where four days a week there are people from the outside, from the parish priests. I like it a lot,” he said.
Pope Francis also revealed details surrounding his day-to-day life.
“I sleep so profoundly” – he said – “that as soon as I get in bed, I fall asleep. I sleep six hours a day. Normally, I stay in bed from 9 p.m., and read until almost 10 p.m.. As soon as one of my eyes waters, I turn off the light and I sleep until 4 a.m., when I wake up by myself, thanks to my biological clock.”
During the afternoons, Pope Francis takes a siesta that last from 40 minutes to one hour. “When I don’t take the siesta, I suffer,” he said.
Pope Francis also said that he never dreamed of being a Pope, and that he had planned to return to Argentina from the 2013 conclave to live as a simple priest and confessor.
He recalled how during the conclave, as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, he had been named as a possible “kingmaker” – someone who uses his influence behind the scenes – but not as a Pope. Because of this, “none of my pictures were published in newspapers,” he said.
According to one cardinal who took part in the 2005 conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Bergoglio had received the second most votes after Joseph Ratzinger.
Pope Francis told the journalist that “this is chatter,” but certainly “at that time I was among the papabili,” – even if “inside (the conclave) it was clear that (the next Pope) had to be Benedict, and he got almost the unanimity of vote.”
Pope Francis also said that he had no candidate in mind for 2013 conclave. There were possibilities, he said, but “not a strong candidate.”
Additionally, he already booked a ticket to leave on Saturday night in order to be in Buenos Aires for the Palm Sunday, the Mass for which he had already written the homily.
But at the moment of the election, the Pope said that he felt “a great peace.” As they were counting the votes, “I was praying my rosary.”
Pope Francis then recalled: “On my side, there was Cardinal Hummes, a friend of mine, who told me in a previous poll not to worry, because ‘this is how the Holy Spirit works.’”
Asked if he understands the extent of his impact on people, Pope Francis said that he doesn’t know why exactly.
“I try to be concrete in the audiences, in things I speak about,” the Pope said. He used the example of the time he spoke “about the case of the separated parents who use children as hostages – it is something very sad – and made the children victims.”
The pontiff also spoke about the importance of mourning, a theme he underscored during his trip to Philippines in January 2015. He said that he mourns when “he sees human dramatic situations,” like that of the Rohingya population, which he mentioned during his Regina Caeli address last Sunday.
“I am very moved by these kind of dramatic situations,” the Pope said.
He said he is also touched by circumstances involving “sick children,” especially those who are affected by “rare infirmities.”
The Pope said he also mourns when he goes to prisons. He’s spent two out of three Holy Thursdays in a prison since his pontificate, and recalled that he has visited prisons in other towns throughout Italy.
“When I am having meals with inmates, I think that I could be there,” Pope Francis said. “No one of us can be sure that he will never commit a crime,” he added. “I feel pain for the inmates, and thank God that I am not there (in prison).”
He went on, however: “sometimes I feel that this gratitude is of convenience, as the inmates did not have the opportunities I had.”
Pope Francis said he doesn’t cry in public, but admits that there have been occasions where “I was about to cry and stopped right in time.” One of these instances, he said, occurred when he “was speaking about persecuted Christians.”
The pontiff also added that he’s not afraid of anything. He is “in God’s hands” with regard to any possible attempts against his life. He simply prays that, if it has to be, God will give him grace not to feel physical pain.
Pope Francis said he says this prayer because he is a “coward” when it comes to pain. “I can manage the moral pain, but I can’t manage the physical pain.”
Pope Francis also said that he feels the pressures of daily life like any person who governs. And he admitted that the intensity of his duties is weighing on him. “I am pushing forward an intense rhythm of work,” as if it were the last year of school, he said.
Pope Francis also addressed problems surrounding the media’s coverage of him, which he says “takes a word and uses it out of context.”
The Pope said he reads only one newspaper – the Italian “La Repubblica” – but even then only for about 10 minutes. He also has not watched television in twenty-five years owing to “a promise I made to the Virgin of Carmel on the night of July 15, 1990.”
A supporter of the soccer team San Lorenzo, he does not watch the football matches, and he keeps himself updated on a weekly basis by a Swiss Guard.
Speaking about his home country, he called Argentina “a country of many possibilities and many lost opportunities,” citing Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, his predecessor as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The Pope, however, said he doesn’t follow the political situation of his country, and that he stopped receiving politicians because of reports “that some of them used this (the audience) and my picture.”
When asked if he likes being referred to as the “poor Pope,” he joked that he agrees with that title if ‘poor’ is accompanied by another word: “for example: the poor guy, the Pope.” Then he underscored that “poverty is the center of the Gospel, Jesus came to preach to poor, if you take poverty out of the Gospel, you cannot understand anything.”
The Pope admitted that eradicating global poverty might be aiming for a sort of Utopia, but – he added – a “Utopia that makes us keep going.”
“There are three things that each of us must have in life: memory, ability to understand the present, and a utopia for the future.” These three things must be combined together, because “if I cut my roots and lose my memories, the same happens to me as happens to a plant: I die; if I just live the present day without foreseeing the future, the same thing happens to me as happens to any bad manager who is unable to make plans.”
According to Pope Francis, the worst evils in the world are poverty, corruption and human trafficking. He said that he always asks people to pray for him because he “needs it. It is an internal need.”
Pope Francis concluded the interview by saying that he simply wants to be remembered as a good guy.