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Pope says speaking with Benedict XVI gives him strength and encouragement

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ROMANIA (CNS): “I take his hand and let him speak. He speaks little, at his own pace, but with the same profoundness as always. Benedict’s problems are his knees, not his mind. He has a great lucidity,” Pope Francis told journalists June 2 on his return flight to Rome following his three-day visit to Romania.
 
The pope said that he continues to visit Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and that their conversations make him stronger, comparing the knowledge he receives from his predecessor as the sap “from the roots that help me to go forward.”
 
“When I hear him speak, I become strong,” Pope Francis explained, likening the 92-year-old retired pope to a grandfather who offers encouragement and gives strength. 
 
“I feel this tradition of the Church. The tradition of the Church is not a museum. No, tradition is like the roots that give you the sap in order to grow. You won’t become the root; you will grow and bear fruit and the seed will be root for others,” Pope Francis said.
 
Recalling a quote by Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, the pope said that tradition “is the guarantee of the future and not the custodian of ashes.”
 
He explained that “the tradition of the Church is always in motion” and that “the nostalgia of the ‘integralists’ is to return to the ashes,” but that is not Catholic tradition. Tradition is “the roots that guarantee the tree grows, blossoms and bears fruit.”
 
Referring to remarks he made in Romania about unity and fraternity, the pope was asked about growing divisions within the European Union.
 
He said that unity on the continent is a task for every European country, he said. “If Europe does not guard well against future challenges, Europe will wither away” and while cultural differences must be respected, Europeans must not give in “to pessimism or ideologies,” he warned.
 
Pope Francis also was asked about an event in the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in Bucharest June 1 and how it appeared that many people at the gathering did not join in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
 
He explained that where there is tension or conflict, Christians must have “a relationship with an outstretched hand.”
 
He stressed, “We must go forward together, always keeping in mind that ecumenism isn’t about arriving at the end of the game. Ecumenism means walking together, praying together, an ecumenism of prayer.”
 
Christians also share “an ecumenism of blood, an ecumenism of witness and what I call ‘an ecumenism of the poor’—working together to help the sick, those who are on the margins.”
 
Pope Francis said that that Chapter 25 of the gospel according to Matthew— where Jesus says those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and prisoners do the same for him—”is a good ecumenical programme.”
 
“It is possible! It is possible to walk together in unity, fraternity, hand outstretched, thinking well of each other, not speaking ill of others,” he said. Every Church has those opposed to Christian unity, who call others “schismatics.”
 
He said, “We all have defects but if we walk together, we leave the defects aside,” adding, “Let the old bachelors criticise.”

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