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Fraternity, tears, and smiles’

Pope shares his most beautiful memory of the last ten years

“Peace, we need peace,” Pope Francis pleas as an anniversary wish in a podcast published by Vatican News on March 13, 2023, the 10th anniversary of his election.

In this 10-minute meditative recording, which completes the list of media to which the Pope has given an interview in recent days, he also returns to the “most beautiful” memory of his pontificate.

The anniversary was a Vatican holiday; only one event was scheduled on Pope Francis’ official agenda: Mass with the cardinals in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, where he lives. The homily was not made public. Instead, the Vatican media published this podcast, recorded with journalist Salvatore Cernuzio.

His election on March 13, 2013 —

“It seems like yesterday,” reflects the Argentine Pontiff, who comments philosophically on time.

“Time is pressing, it’s in a hurry, and when you want to grasp today, it’s already yesterday. And if you want to grasp tomorrow, it is not yet here.”

The Pope situates his pontificate “in this tension between yesterday and tomorrow.”

He recounts his “most beautiful” memory of the decade: The meeting in St Peter’s Square with the elderly on September 28, 2014, which was also attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“The elderly are wisdom and they help me so much,” he assures, paying tribute to the elderly who “are like good wine, who have a matured history.” And, he quips: “The meetings with the elderly make me younger.”

As for the “bad moments” of his pontificate, the Pope links them to war. He recalls with sadness his visit to the cemetery of Redipuglia on September 13, 2014, and then to the American cemetery of Nettuno, where he celebrated Mass on November 2, 2017. He also says he is marked by the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings celebrated on June 6, 2019.

“I think of the mothers, who received a letter: Madam I have the honor to tell you that you are the mother of a hero … The letter, the medal — but the son is no more,” he denounces.

The 266th pope, who has never ceased to deplore what he calls our “Third World War, in piecemeal,” confesses that he did not expect to find a world so torn apart. “I thought Syria was an isolated case, and then there was Yemen, and then I saw the tragedy of the Rohingyas, Burma…” he notes.

He also mentions the Russian-Ukrainian war: “It makes me suffer to see the dead, the young people – both Russians and Ukrainians, it doesn’t matter, both of them – who don’t come back.”

And, he asserts, “Behind the wars, there is the arms industry.”

“It is diabolical.”

The head of the Catholic Church expresses three wishes for the world: “fraternity, tears, and smiles.” He encourages us “not to be afraid to cry and to smile”.

“A person who knows how to cry and smile is someone who has his feet on the ground and his eyes on the horizon of the future. If a person forgets to cry, it’s no good … and it’s even worse when you forget to smile,” he concludes. (Aleteia)


Three of the Pope’s most iconic gestures

Kissing the feet of the leaders of South Sudan on April 11, 2019

The 266th pope knelt before the two South Sudanese leaders, kissing their feet in a plea that they would support his plea for peace. The uncommon image travelled around the world. With this action, which surprised even his closest collaborators, Pope Francis shone a spotlight on the tragic situation of a country that has known nothing but war since its creation in 2011. In the wake of this gesture, the Pope would travel to South Sudan in February 2023 with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to reiterate a call for peace.


Praying in St Peter’s Square during the Covid-19 pandemic on March 27, 2020

It’s an image that will be preserved in the history books. On March 27, 2020, while much of the world was confined and the bells of Rome’s churches were ringing, Pope Francis stood alone in front of an empty and rain-beaten St Peter’s Square. Millions of people in front of their screens watched him deliver a blessing Urbi et Orbi, ‘to the city and the world’, in an apocalyptic atmosphere.


Bidding farewell to the coffin of Benedict XVI on January 5, 2023

The image is unprecedented because never in recent history had a pope buried his predecessor. In St Peter’s Square, the Funeral Mass had just ended, and Pope Francis was moving toward the basilica as he turned around to wait for the coffin of Benedict XVI. The Argentine pontiff first blessed it, then put his right hand on the cypress wood coffin and bowed. “Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice [the voice of God, Ed.], now and forever!” This was Francis’ prayer for his predecessor at the conclusion of the homily he had given a few minutes earlier.