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November 17, 2017
Archive of September 11, 2017

The brutal, powerful 9/11 stories of Catholic priests

New York City, N.Y., Sep 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the clear, sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan heard an explosion overhead.

He grabbed oils for anointing, ran out the door of St. Peter's parish in New York City, and wandered towards the center of the commotion – the World Trade Center only a block away.

Fifty blocks uptown, Fr. Christopher Keenan, OFM watched with the world as the smoke rising from the twin towers darkened the television screen. Looking to help, he went to St. Vincent's Hospital downtown to tend to those wounded in the attack – but the victims never came.

All the while, he wondered what had happened to a brother friar assigned as chaplain to the firefighters of New York City: Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, named by some the “Saint of 9/11.”

Sixteen years ago on this day, hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. In a field in southern Pennsylvania, passengers retook control of the cockpit and crashed the plane before it could reach its intended target, presumed to be in Washington, D.C.  

The consequences of the attacks have rippled throughout the United States as the attacks spurred a new global war on terror and irreversibly changed the country’s outlook on terror, security, and international engagement.

For Fr. Madigan, Fr. Keenan and Fr. Judge, the day changed their own lives and ministries, as a pastor lost nearly his entire congregation, and a friar put himself in harm's way to take on a new position – an assignment he only received because another friar gave the ultimate sacrifice as the Twin Towers came down.

“This experience has seared our soul and our spirit and our life, and it has so seared our spirit and our life that it has penetrated our DNA,” Fr. Keenan told CNA.  

“It has changed our lives and we will never be the same,” he said.

It was like losing a village

On Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan had been assigned to St. Peter’s Church in the financial district of Lower Manhattan. The parish is the oldest Catholic church in New York State, “half a block literally from the corner of the World Trade Center,” Fr. Madigan explained to CNA.

“Prior to 9/11 it was a parish that basically serviced the people who came to the neighborhood who came to Mass or Confession, devotions and things like that.” The parish had a full and well-attended schedule of liturgies and prayers, with multiple Masses said during the morning and lunch hour. September 11th changed that.

“Immediately after 9/11, that community was no longer there, because it was like losing a village of 40,000 people next door.”  

Fr. Madigan was leaving the sanctuary that morning, heading back to the rectory when overhead he heard the first plane hit the towers. Immediately he made his way towards the commotion, looking to minister to anyone who had been hurt by what had happened.  

“I took the oils for anointing anyone who was dying – I didn’t know what was going on there,” he said. However, most of those fleeing the building did not need anointing, Fr. Madigan recalled. “Most people either got out alive or were dead. There weren’t that many people who were in that in-between area.”

Then, there was another explosion from the other tower, and an object – the wheel of an airplane, in fact – went whizzing by Fr. Madigan’s head.

“After the second plane hit I went back to the office and made sure all the staff got out of there fast,” evacuating staff who were unaware of the chaos outside.

Fr. Madigan was back on the street when firefighters began to wonder if the towers might fall.

Thinking it ridiculous, Fr. Madigan kept an eye on a nearby subway entrance, which linked to an underground passage north of the towers. Then, a massive cloud of dust swept towards Fr. Madigan and another priest as the towers did collapse; they ducked into the subway station, emerging amidst the thick smoke and dust several blocks away.

After the towers came down, Fr. Madigan made his way first to the hospital for an emergency health screening, then back to check on St. Peter’s. While he was away from his parish, firefighters and other first responders made use of the sanctuary, temporarily laying to rest over 30 bodies recovered from the wreckage.

The death of Father Mychal

In September of 2001, Fr. Christopher Keenan had been assigned to work with a community ministry program near the parish of St. Francis in midtown Manhattan. At St. Francis, he lived in community along with several other Franciscan Friars, including an old friend he had known for years – Fr. Mychal Judge, chaplain for the Fire Department of New York City. Through Fr. Judge, the Friars became especially close with some of their neighbors at a firehouse across the street, who let the friars park their car at the firehouse.

Although the plane flew overhead, Fr. Keenan told CNA that “like everyone else, we found out while watching TV.” As the friars and brothers watched the events unfold on the television, they saw the second plane hit the South Tower; Fr. Keenan decided to go to St. Vincent’s Hospital – one of the closest medical facilities to the Word Trade Center. At the time, he thought there would be injured people who would need to be anointed or would like someone to hear their confession.

However, once he got to St. Vincent’s he found a long line of doctors, nurses and other responders who had come to help: together they “were all waiting for these people to get out who never came.” Victims were either largely able to walk away on their own, or they never made it to the hospital at all.

Instead, Fr. Keenan told CNA, “my responsibility was after people were treated to contact their family members to come and get them.”

As patients began to go home, Fr. Keenan continued to wonder about his brother friar, Fr. Judge, asking firefighters if they knew what had happened to the chaplain. Fr. Keenan left the hospital in the early evening to go hear confessions, but stopped at the firehouse across the street to ask the firemen if they knew where Fr. Judge was: “they told me his body was in the back of the firehouse.”

The mere fact that his body was intact and present at the firehouse that day was in itself a small miracle, Fr. Keenan said. “Mychal's body that was brought out was one of the only bodies that was intact, recognizable and viewable,” he said. Among those that died in the Twin Towers, he continued, “everyone was vaporized, pulverized and cremated” by the heat of the fire in the towers and the violence of the towers’ collapse. “He was one of the only ones able to be brought out and to be brought home.”

That morning, Fr. Judge had gone along with Battalion 1 to answer a call in a neighborhood close to the Trade Center. Also with the battalion were two French filmmakers filming a documentary on the fire unit. When the towers were hit, the Battalion was one of the first to arrive on the scene. In the film released by the brothers, Fr. Keenan said, “you can see his face and you can tell he knows what’s happening and his lips are moving and you can tell he’s praying his rosary.”

The group entered the lobby of the North Tower and stood in the Mezzanine as the South Tower collapsed – spraying glass, debris and dust throughout the building.

“All the debris roared through the glass mezzanine like a roaring train and his body happened to be blown into the escalators,” Fr. Keenan relayed the experience eyewitnesses told him. In the impact, Fr. Judge hit his head on a piece of debris, killing him almost instantly.  

“All of a sudden they feel something at their feet and it was Mychal, but he was gone.“

Members of the fire department, police department and other first responders carried Fr. Judge’s body out of the wreckage, putting his body down first to run as the second tower collapsed, then again to temporarily rest it at St. Peter’s Church. Members of the fire department brought it back to the firehouse where Fr. Keenan saw his friend and prayed over his body.

Fr. Mychal Judge was later listed as Victim 0001 – the first death certificate processed on 9/11.

Despite the sudden and unexpected nature of the attacks, Fr. Keenan told CNA that in the weeks before his friend’s death, Fr. Judge had a sense his death was near.

“He just had a sense that the Lord Jesus was coming.” On several occasions, Fr. Keenan said, Fr. Judge had told him, “You know, Chrissy, the Lord will be coming for me,” and made other references to his death.

“He had a sense that the Lord was coming for him.”

The grueling aftermath

“There was no playbook for how you deal with something in the wake of something like that,” Fr. Madigan said of the aftermath of 9/11. Personally, Fr. Madigan told CNA, he was well-prepared spiritually and mentally for the senseless nature of the attacks.   

“I understand that innocent people get killed tragically all the time,” he said, noting that while the scale was larger and hit so close to home, “life goes on.” For many others that he ministered to, however, “it did shake their foundations, their trust and belief in God.”  

While the attacks changed the focus of his ministry as a parish priest at the time, they also posed logistical challenges for ministry and aid: St. Peter’s usual congregation of people who worked in and around the World Trade Center vanished nearly overnight. Instead, the whole area was cordoned off for rescue workers and recovery activities as the city began the long task of sorting and removing the debris and rubble.

In addition, a small chapel named St. Joseph's Chapel, which was cared for and administered by St. Peter’s, was used by FEMA workers as a base for recovery activities during the weeks after the attack. During that time, the sanctuary was damaged and several structures of the chapel, including the pulpit, chairs and interior, were rendered unusable. According to Fr. Madigan, FEMA denies that it ever used the space.

Still, the priests at St. Peter's saw it as their duty to minister to those that were there – whoever they were.

“The parish, the church building itself was open that whole time,” he said, saying that anyone who had clearance to be within the Ground Zero area was welcome at the church. In the weeks after the attacks, the parish acted as sanctuary, as recovery workers who were discovering body parts and other personal effects “would come in there just to sort of try to get away from that space.”

“Myself and one of the other priests would be out there each day just to be able to talk to anyone who wants to talk about what’s going on,” he added. “We'd celebrate Mass in a building nearby.”

Today, Fr. Madigan has been reassigned to another parish in uptown Manhattan, and St. Peter’s now has found a new congregation as new residents have moved into the neighborhoods surrounding the former World Trade Center site.

Only two months after the attack, Fr. Keenan took on the role of his old friend, Fr. Judge: he was installed as chaplain for the 14,000 first responders of the the FDNY.

Immediately, Fr. Keenan joined the firefighters in their task of looking for the remains – even the most minute fragments – of the more than 2,600 people killed at the World Trade Center. “The rest of the recovery process then was for nine months trying to find the remains.”  

For the firefighters in particular, there was a drive to find the remains of the 343 firefighters killed at the World Trade Center and help bring closure to the family members. “You always bring your brother home, you never leave them on the battlefield,” Fr. Keenan said.

The resulting amount of work, as well as the “intense” tradition among firefighters to attend all funerals for members killed in the line of duty meant that the job became all-consuming, with all one’s spare time spent at the World Trade Center site. Sometimes, Fr. Keenan said, he would attend as many as four, five, or six funerals or memorials a day – and many families held a second funeral if body parts were recovered from the site.

“Here are the guys, overtime, going to all the funerals, working spare time on the site looking for recovery, and taking care of the families,” he said. “I was 24/7, 365 for 26 months.”

In addition, Fr. Keenan and the rest of the FDNY worked inside “this incredible toxic brew” of smoke, chemicals and fires that burned among the ruins at Ground Zero for months.  

“I would be celebrating Mass at 10:00 on a Sunday morning down there,” he recalled, “and just 30 feet from where I’m celebrating Mass at the cross, the cranes are lifting up the steel.”

While both buildings had contained more than 200 floors of offices, there was “not a trace of a computer, telephones, files, nothing. Everything was totally decimated.” Instead, all that was left was steel, dirt and the chemicals feeding the fires that smouldered underground in the footprint of the towers.

“The cranes are lifting up the steel and the air is feeding the fires underneath, and out of that is coming these incredible colors of yellow, black and green smoke, and we all worked in the recovery process.” The experience working the recovery at the World Trade Center site is one that Fr. Keenan considers a “gift” and an “honor.”

“It was an incredible experience really,” he said.

Fr. Keenan recounted a conversation the firefighters had with him a few days after he was commissioned. After pledging to “offer my life to protect the people and property of New York City,” the other firefighters told their new chaplain “we know you’re ours, don’t you forget that every one of us is yours,” promising to stand by their new shepherd. “I’m the most loved and cared for person in the world and who has it better than me?”

While the formal recovery process has ended and a new tower, One World Trade Center, stands just yards from the original site of Ground Zero, the experience – and the chemicals rescue workers came in contact with for months – still affect the firefighters.

In 2016 alone, “we put 17 new names on the wall,” said Fr. Keenan, “who died this past year from of the effects of 9/11.” He explained that in the years following the attack, thousands of rescuers and first responders – including Fr. Keenan himself – have developed different cancers and illnesses linked to their exposure at the World Trade Center site. In fact, at the time of the interview in 2016, Fr. Keenan had just returned from a screening for the more than 20 toxic chemicals the responders were exposed to. He warned that the “different cancers and the lung problems that are emerging are just the tip of the iceberg,” and worried that as time progressed, other cancers and illnesses linked to the attack recovery would emerge.

The first responders are also dealing with the psychological fallout of the attacks among themselves, Fr. Keenan said, though many are dealing with it in their own way, and with one another.

Looking back, Fr. Keenan told CNA he still finds it difficult to express the experience to others or to make sense of what it was like when he would go down into “the pit” to work alongside the firefighters and other first responders. “The only image I had as time went on and I asked ‘how do I make sense of this as a man of faith?’ is that it was like I was descending into hell and I was seeing the face of God on the people that were there.”

The same image had come to his mind to make sense of taking care of patients with AIDS in the 1990s, he said, even though nothing can fully make sense of events like these.

“I was like a midwife to people in their birthing process from life to death to new life,” he recalled. “All I can do is be present there, they have to do the work, I can be present there, I can pray with them.”

“That’s how in faith I kind of sort of comprehended it.”


This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 11, 2016.

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Pope hopes Trump will 'rethink' DACA decision on pro-life grounds

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - During a press conference Sunday aboard the papal plane from Colombia to Rome, Pope Francis said that though he is not familiar with how the decision to end DACA was made, he hopes it will be reconsidered as part of a pro-life ethic which defends the unity of families.

“I hope that it will be rethought a little, because I have heard the President of the United States speak as a pro-life man. If he is a good pro-life man, he understands that the family is the cradle of life, and unity must be defended. This is what comes to me,” Francis said Sept. 10.

“I have heard of this law. I have not been able to read the articles, how the decision was made. I don't know it well,” he stated. “Keeping young people away from the family is not something that brings good fruit.”

Asked if he thought that ending DACA will cause youth who benefitted under the program to lose their joy and hope in the future, he said that when youth feel exploited, whether in this case or others, they are robbed of hope.

Dependency on drugs and other substances, as well as suicide, also provoke hopelessness, he said, which happens when youth are disconnected from their roots.

“Uprooted young people today ask for help, and this is why I insist so much on dialogue between the elderly and the youth. That they talk to their parents, but (also) the elderly,” he said.

The Pope spoke aboard the papal plane Sunday evening on the return flight from Colombia. He made an apostolic visit to the country Sept. 6-11 to promote peace and reconciliation in the country, which has suffered from violence and a decades-long civil war. 

In the 40-minute long conference, the Pope also spoke about the crisis in Venezuela, corruption, climate change and whether Colombia could provide a model for the peace process for other countries.

The Trump administration announced Sept. 5 that it would be taking steps to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA, which has benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.

Under the program, eligible immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors by their parents could receive a two-year stay on their deportation. In that time period, they could be eligible for work permits and Social Security.

The program was announced in 2012 by President Obama and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, in the memorandum “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children.”

Congress had several times tried and failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or a version of it, that would help young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 to lawfully remain in the U.S. and even have a path to citizenship.

The most recent version has been introduced this year by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and would grant permanent legal status to more than 1 million eligible persons.

DACA was expanded to include eligible parents who brought their children illegally to the U.S. in a program called “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.” In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld a halt on that program going into effect, and U.S. Secretary of State Jeff Sessions warned Tuesday that DACA could get struck down in court.

The Trump administration said it would end DACA by phasing it out. Sessions said that it was an “unconstitutional” overreach of executive power, especially since Congress refused several times to grant such benefits to undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision has been met with harsh criticism, including from U.S. bishops, who said ending the program was a “national tragedy” for all parties and argued that it is unfair to deport young people who did not make the choice to come to the U.S., but who nevertheless have contributed to the country by holding down jobs, going to college and even serving in the nation's armed forces. 

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Pope Francis: United Nations must help in Venezuela crisis

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Aboard his overnight flight from Colombia to Rome Sunday, Pope Francis touched on the dire political and human rights crisis that continues to unfold in Venezuela, stating that the U.N. needs to be involved in reaching a solution.

“It seems that it's a very hard thing, and the most painful is the humanitarian problem, the many people who escape or suffer...we must help to resolve it in any way (possible). I think the U.N. must also make itself felt there to help,” the Pope said Sept. 10.

“I think that the Holy See has spoken strongly and clearly,” he said, also mentioning the many times he has spoken about the situation in Venezuela during his Angelus addresses. 

Journalists also asked Pope Francis about President Nicolás Maduro’s conflicting rhetoric, in particular his claim to be “with” Pope Francis, while at the same time speaking out violently against the bishops. 

About this, Francis replied: “What President Maduro says, he can explain. I don't know what he has in his mind…”

The Pope also mentioned the extensive work of the Holy See to promote dialogue in the country, including the agreement to send a group of four ex-presidents as facilitators in a meeting between the Venezuelan government and the opposition Oct. 30, 2016. 

The group was made up of former Colombian president Ernesto Samper Pizano, the secretary general of UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations); José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain; Martín Torrijos of Panama; and Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic.

The Vatican also sent Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli to participate as a nuncio of the Holy See. 

Pope Francis said that after “speaking with the people,” the Holy See has also spoken to Venezuela in a private manner, possibly referring to a private meeting that occurred between him and President Maduro at the Vatican last October.

The Pope spoke aboard the papal plane Sunday evening on the return flight from Colombia. He visited the country Sept. 6-11 to promote peace and reconciliation in the country, which has suffered from the violence of a decades-long civil war.

In the 40-minute long conference, the Pope also spoke about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), corruption, climate change, and whether Colombia could provide a model of the peace process for other countries.

Venezuela is in the midst of escalating protests and violence, as President Nicolás Maduro has suppressed opposition and democracy activists, and moved to seize legislative power in the country.

The results of a July 30 election convened by Maduro have been dismissed as illegitimate by the United States and several other nations, and a burgeoning economic crisis has led to widespread chaos.

The country was on Pope Francis' mind throughout his visit to Colombia, beginning with the flight over the nation. As his plane took off for Bogota, he greeted journalists, telling them they were going to fly over Venezuela and asking them “to pray so there can be dialogue, that there will be stability, with dialogue with everyone.”

In his Angelus address on Sunday, the Pope again assured those present of his prayers for the countries of Latin America, particularly Venezuela, expressing his closeness to the nation and those from the nation who have been welcomed into Colombia.

“From this city, known as the seat of human rights, I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society,” he said.

He also met briefly with five bishops from Venezuela present in Colombia for his visit, welcoming them to the sacristy after celebrating Mass in Bogota Sept. 7.

Among the prelates Francis met were Cardenal Jorge Urosa, Archbishop of Caracas; Cardenal Baltazar Porras, Archbishop of Mérida; Jesús González de Zárate, Auxiliary Bishop of Caracas; Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristóbal; and Bishop José Luis Azuaje of Barinas, who is also President of the Latin American branch of Cáritas.

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Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight press conference from Colombia

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his conversation with journalists on the return flight from Cartagena to Rome on Monday, Pope Francis touched on a variety of topics, notably the US government's decision to end DACA and the crisis in Venezuela.

He also touched on the peace process in Colombia, Hurricane Irma, climate change, and migration during his Sept. 11 flight.

Please find below CNA's full transcript of the Pope's in-flight press conference.


Greg Burke: Thank you, Holy Father, for the time you are dedicating to us today after an intense, tiring trip; very tiring for some, but also a very fruitful trip. On several occasions you thanked the people for what they taught you. We also learn many things in this culture of encounter and we thank you for it.

Colombia in particular, with its recent past, and not only recent, offered us some strong testimonies, some emotional testimonies of forgiveness and reconciliation. But it also offered us a continuous lesson of joy and hope, two words that you used a lot in this trip. Now perhaps you want to say something, and then we can go to the questions. Thank you.

Pope Francis: Good afternoon and thank you very much for your work. I am moved by the joy, the tenderness, the youth and the goodness of the Colombian people. A noble people that isn't afraid to express how they feel, isn't afraid to listen and to make seen how they feel. This is how I perceive it. This is the third time I remember [that I have been in Colombia] - but there is a bishop who told me: no, you have been a fourth time - but only for small meetings. One time in Laceja and the other two in Bogota, or three, but, I did not know Colombia well, what you see on the streets. Well, I appreciate the testimony of joy, of hope, of patience in suffering of this people. It did me a lot of good. Thank you.

Greg Burke: Okay, Holy Father. The first question is from César Moreno of Radio Caracol.

Moreno: Thank you, Your Holiness. Good evening. First of all, I would like to thank you on behalf of all the Colombian media that are accompanying us here on this trip, and all of the colleagues and friends for having come to our country, for having given us so many beautiful, profound and affectionate messages, and for such closeness that you demonstrated to the Colombian people. Thank you, Your Holiness.

You arrived, Holy Father, to a divided country. Divided on account of a peace process, between those who accept and those who don't accept this process. What concretely can be done, what steps can be taken, so that the divided parts grow closer, so that our leaders stop this hate, this grudge? If Your Holiness returns, if you could return to our country in a few years, what do you think, how would you like to see Colombia? Thank you.

Pope Francis: I would like the motto to at least be: “Let us take the second step.” That at least it is this. I thought that there were more. I counted 60, but they told me 54 years of the guerrillas, more or less. And here it accumulates a lot, a lot. A lot of hatred, a lot of resentment, a lot of sickness in the soul. And the sickness isn't to blame. It comes. The measles grabs and drags you...oh, sorry! I'll speak in Italian. The sickness is not something to blame, it comes. And in these guerrilla wars - that they really waged, whether they were guerrillas, paramilitaries, or others - and also the corruption in the country, they committed gross sins that lead to this disease of hatred, of...But if they have taken steps that give hope, steps in negotiation, but it has been the last. The ELN ceasefire, and I am very grateful for it, very grateful for this. But there is something else that I perceived. The desire to go forward in this process goes beyond negotiations that they are being done or should be done. It is a spontaneous desire, and this is the strength of the people. This people wants to breathe, but we must help them with the closeness of prayer, and above all with the understanding of how much pain there is inside so many people.

Greg Burke: Now Holy Father, José Mojica, from El Tiempo.

José Mojica: Holy Father, it's an honor to be here, to be here with you. My name is José Mojica and I am a journalist for El Tiempo, the editorial home of Colombia, and I also greet you in the name of my Colombian colleagues and all communications media in my country.

Colombia has suffered many decades of violence due to the war, the armed conflict and also drug trafficking. However, the ravages of corruption in politics have been just as damaging as the war itself, and although corruption is not new, we have always known that it exists, now it's more visible because we no longer have news of the war and the armed conflict. What can we do in front of this scourge, up to what point can we stand the corrupt, how do we punish them? And finally, should the corrupt be excommunicated?

Pope Francis: You ask me a question I have asked myself many times. I put it to myself in this way: do the corrupt have forgiveness? I asked myself like this. And I asked myself when there was an act the province of Catamarca, in Argentina, an act of mistreatment, abuse, the rape of a girl. And there were people stuck there, very attached to political and economic powers in this province.

An article published in La Nacion at that time moved me a lot, and I wrote a small book which is called “Sin and Corruption.” ...always we are all sinners, and we know that the Lord is close to us, that he never tires of forgiving. But the difference: God never tires of forgiving, the sinner sometimes wakes up and asks for forgiveness. The problem is that the corrupt get tired of asking for forgiveness and forget how to ask for forgiveness, and this is the serious problem. It's a state of insensitivity before values, before destruction, before the exploitation of people. They are not able to ask forgiveness, it's like a condemnation, so it's very hard to help the corrupt, very hard. But God can do it. I pray for that.

Greg Burke: Holy Father, now Hernan Reyes, from TELAM.

Hernán Reyes: Holiness, the question is from the Spanish language group of journalists. You spoke of this first step that Colombia has made. Today at the Mass, you said that there hasn’t been enough dialogue between the two parts, but was it necessary to incorporate more actors. Do you think it’s possible to replicate this Colombia model in other conflicts in the world?

Pope Francis: Integrating other people. Also today in the homily I spoke of this, taking a passage from the Gospel. Integrating other people. It’s not the first time, in so many conflicts many people have been involved. It’s a way of moving ahead, a sapiential way of politics. There is the wisdom of asking for help, but I believe that today I wished to note it in the homily - which is a message, more than a homily - I think that these technical, let’s say 'political', resources help and interventions of the United Nations are sometimes requested to get out of the crisis. But a peace process will go forward only when the people take it in their hands. If the people don’t take it in hand, it can go a bit forward, they arrive at a compromise. It is what I have tried to make heard during this visit: the protagonist of the peace process either is the people or it arrives to a certain point, but when the people take it in hand, they are capable of doing it well… that is the higher road.

Greg Burke: Now, Elena Pinardi.

Elena Pinardi (EBU): Good evening, Holiness. First of all, we would like to ask how you are doing. We saw that you hit your head… how are you? Did you hurt yourself?

Pope Francis: I turned there to greet children and I didn’t see the glass and boom!

Pinardi: The question is this: while we were flying, we passed close to Hurricane Irma, which after causing … deaths and massive damage in the Caribbean islands and Cuba, it’s feared that broad areas of Florida could end up underwater, and 6 million people have had to leave their homes. After Hurricane Harvey, there have been almost simultaneously three hurricanes in the area. Scientists say that the warming of the oceans is a factor that contributes to making the storms and seasonal hurricanes more intense. Is there a moral responsibility for political leaders who reject collaborating with the other nations to control the emission of greenhouse gas? Why do they deny that climate change is also be the work of man?

Pope Francis: Thanks. For the last part, to not forget, whoever denies this should go to the scientists and ask them. They speak very clearly. The scientists are precise. The other day, when the news of that Russian boat came out, I believe, that went from Norway to Japan or Taipei by way of the North Pole without an icebreaker and the photographs showed pieces of ice. To the North Pole, you could go. It’s very, very clear. When that news came from a university, I don’t remember from where, another came out that said, ‘We only have three years to turn back, otherwise the consequences will be terrible.’ I don’t know if three years is true or not, but if we don’t turn back we’re going down, that’s true. Climate change, you see the effects and scientists say clearly which is the path to follow. And all of us have a responsibility, all… everyone… a little one, a big one, a moral responsibility, and to accept from the opinion or make decisions, and we have to take it seriously. I think it’s something that’s not to joke around with. It’s very serious. And you ask me: what is the moral responsibility. Everyone has his. Politicians have their own. Everyone has their own according to the response he gives.

I would say: everyone has their own moral responsibility, first. Second, if one is a bit doubtful that this is not so true, let them ask the scientists. They are very clear. They are not opinions on the air, they are very clear. And then let them decide, and history will judge their decisions. Thanks.

Enzo Romeo (TG2): Good afternoon, Holy Father. I unite myself to the question my colleague made earlier because you frequently in the speeches you gave in Colombia, called again, in some way, to make peace with creation. Respecting the environment as a necessary condition so that a stable social peace may be created. The effects of climate change, here in Italy - I don’t know if you’ve been informed - has caused many deaths in Livorno...

Pope Francis: After three-and-a-half months of drought.

Romeo: … much damage in Rome. We are all concerned by this situation. Why is there a delay in taking awareness, especially by governments, that nevertheless appear to be solicitous perhaps in other areas, for example, in arms trade? We are seeing the crisis in Korea, also about this I would like to have your opinion.

Pope Francis: Why? A phrase comes to me from the Old Testament, I believe from the Psalm: Man is stupid. He is stubborn one who does not see, the only animal of creation that puts his leg in the same hole is man… the horse, no, they don’t do it… There is arrogance, the sufficiency of “it’s not like that,” and then there is the “pocket” God, not only about creation, so many decisions, so many contradictions (...) depend on money. Today, in Cartagena, I started in a part, let’s call it poor, of Cartagena. The other part, the touristic side, luxury, luxury without moral measure… but those who go there don’t realize this, or the socio-political analysts don’t realize… ‘man is stupid,’ the Bible said. It’s like that: when you don’t want to see, you don’t see. You just look in another direction. And of North Korea, I’ll tell the truth, I don’t understand. Truly, I don’t understand that world of geopolitics. It’s very tough for me. But I believe that what I see, there is a struggle of interests that don’t escape me, I truly can’t explain… but the other important thing: we don’t take awareness. Think to Cartagena today. Is this unjust. Can we take awareness? This is what comes to me. Thanks.

Valentina Alazraki, Noticieros Televisa: I'm sorry. Holy Father, every time you meet with youth in any part of the world you always tell them: 'Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope, don't let yourselves be robbed of the future.' Unfortunately, in the United States they have abolished the law of the “dreamers.” They speak of 800,000 youth: Mexicans, Colombians, from many countries. Do you think that with the abolition of this law the youth lose joy, hope and their future? And, after, abusing your kindness, could you make a small prayer, a small thought, for all the victims of the earthquake in Mexico and of Hurricane Irma? Thank you.

Pope Francis: I have heard of this law. I have not been able to read the articles, how the decision was made. I don't know it well. Keeping young people away from family is not something that brings good fruit. Every young person has their family. I think that this law, which I think comes not from parliament [sic], but from the executive, if this is the case, which I am not sure, I hope that it will be rethought a little, because I have heard the President of the United States speak as a pro-life man. If he is a good pro-life man, he understands that the family is the cradle of life, and unity must be defended. This is what comes to me. That's why I'm interested in studying the law well.

Truly, when youth feel, in general, whether in this case or another, exploited, in the end they feel that they have no hope. And who steals it from them? Drugs, other dependencies, suicide...youth suicide is very strong and comes when they are taken out from their roots. Uprooted young people today ask for help, and this is why I insist so much on dialogue between the elderly and the youth. That they talk to their parents, but (also) the elderly. Because the roots are there...[inaudible] to avoid the conflicts that can happen with the nearest roots, with the parents. But today's youth need to rediscover their roots. Anything that goes against the root robs them of hope. I don’t know if I answered, more or less.

Alazraki: They can be deported from the United States...

Pope Francis: Eh, yes, the lose a root. But truthfully, on this law I don't want to express myself, because I have not read it and I don't like to talk about something I don't understand.

And then, Valentina is Mexican, and Mexico has suffered a lot. I ask everyone for solidarity with the dean (Editor’s note: a reference to the journalist, who is a veteran reporter and on friendly terms with the Pope) and a prayer for the country. Thank you.

Greg Burke: Thank you, Holy Father. Now, Fausto Gasparroni from ANSA.

Fausto Gasparroni: Holiness, in the name of the Italian group, I’d like to pose you a question about the issue of immigrants, particularly about what the Italian Church has recently expressed, let’s say, a sort of comprehension about the new policy of the government of restricting the exit from Libya in boats. It has been written also that about this you had a meeting with the President of the Council, Gentiloni. We’d like to know if effectively in this meeting this topic was spoken about and especially what you think of this policy of closing the exits, considering also the fact that after the immigrants that stay in Libya, as has also been documented by investigations, live in inhuman conditions, in very, very precarious conditions. Thanks.

Pope Francis: The meeting with Minister Gentiloni was a personal meeting and not about that topic. It was before this issue, which came out later, some weeks later. Almost a month later. (It was) before this issue. Secondly, I feel the duty and gratitude toward Italy and Greece because they opened their hearts to immigrants, but it’s not enough to open the heart. The problem of the immigrant is: first an ever open heart, it’s also a commandment of God, no? “Receive them, because you have been a slave in Egypt.” But a government must manage that problem with the virtue proper of a governor: prudence. What does that mean? First: How many places do I have? Second: Not only to receive… (but to) integrate, integrate. I’ve seen examples, here in Italy, of precious integrations. I went to Roma Tre University and three students asked me questions. One was the last one. I looked at her and said, “I know that face.” It was one who, less than a year earlier, had come from Lesbos with me in the plane. She learned the language, is studying biology. They validated her classes and she continued. She learned the language. This is called integrating. On another flight, I think when we were coming back from Sweden, I spoke about the policy of integration of Sweden as a model. But also Sweden said prudently: this number I cannot do. Because there exists the danger of no integration. Third: it’s a humanitarian issue. Humanity takes awareness of these concentration camps, the conditions, the desert… I’ve seen photographs. First of the exploiters. The Italian government gives me the impression that it is doing everything, in humanitarian work, to resolve the problem that it cannot assume. Heart always open, prudence, integration, humanitarian closeness.

And there is a final thing that I want to say, above all for Africa There is a motto, a principle in our collective consciousness: Africa must be exploited. Today in Cartagena we saw an example of human exploitation, in any case. A chief of government said a truth about this: those who flee from war are another problem, but there are many who flee from hunger. Let us invest there so that it may grow, but in the collective consciousness there is the issue that when the developed nations go to Africa it’s to exploit it.

Africa is a friend and must be helped to grow. Today, other problems of war go in another direction. I don’t know if I clarified with this.

Xavier Le Normand (iMedia): Holy Father, today you spoke in the Angelus, you asked that all kinds of violence in political life be rejected. Thursday, after Mass in Bogota, you greeted five Venezuelan bishops. We all know that the Holy See is very committed to a dialogue with this country. For many months you have asked for an end to all violence. But President Maduro, on one hand, has many violent words against the bishops, and on the other hand says that he is with Pope Francis. Would it not be possible to have stronger and perhaps clearer words? Thank you.

Pope Francis: I think that the Holy See has spoken strongly and clearly. What President Maduro says, he can explain. I don't know what he has in his mind, but the Holy See has done a lot, it sent there - with the working group of four ex-presidents there - it has sent a first-level nuncio. After speaking with the people, it spoke publicly. Many times in the Angelus I have spoken about the situation, always looking for an exit, helping, offering help to get out. It seems that it's a very hard thing, and the most painful is the humanitarian problem, the many people who escape or suffer...we must help to resolve it in anyway (possible). I think the UN must also make itself heard there to help.

Greg Burke: Thank you, Holiness. I think we have to go.

Pope Francis: For the turbulence? They say there is some turbulence and we need to go. Many thanks for your work. And once more I’d like to thank the example of the Colombian people. I would like to conclude with an image. What most struck me about the Colombians in the four cities was the people in the streets, greeting me. What must struck me is that the father, mother, raised up their children to help them see the Pope and so the Pope could bless them, as if saying, ‘This is my treasure, this is my hope. This is my future.’ I believe you. This struck me. The tenderness. The eyes of those fathers, of those mothers. Precious, precious. This is a symbol, a symbol of hope, of future. A people that is capable of having children and then shows them to you, make them see as well, as if saying, ‘This is my treasure,’ is a people that has hope and future. Many thanks.

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Pope Francis: Parents cherishing their kids is a sign of hope for the future

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On his return flight from Colombia, Pope Francis said that seeing parents’ devotion for their children gives him hope for the country’s future.

Concluding his press conference aboard the papal flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said, “I would like to conclude with an image. What most struck me about the Colombians in the four cities were the people in the streets, greeting me. What most struck me is that the father, mother, raised up their children to help them see the Pope and so the Pope could bless them, as if saying, ‘This is my treasure, this is my hope. This is my future’.”

“This struck me,” he continued. “The tenderness. The eyes of those fathers, of those mothers. Precious, precious.”

Seeing this devotion of parents for the children, he said, is “a symbol of hope, of future.”

“A people that is capable of having children and then showing them to you, helping them see as well, as if saying, ‘This is my treasure,’ is a people that has hope and future.”

The Pope spoke aboard the papal plane Sunday evening on the return flight from Colombia. He visited the country Sept. 6-11 to promote peace and reconciliation in the country, which has suffered from the violence of a decades-long civil war.

During his trip, Pope Francis met with religious and civil leaders, visited a children’s home and a homeless shelter, and spoke at a prayer gathering for national reconciliation. He visited the Colombian cities of Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellín and Cartagena.

In the 40-minute long press conference aboard the papal flight, the Pope also spoke about the phasing out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), corruption, climate change, and whether Colombia could provide a model of the peace process for other countries.


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