Pope Francis has decided to scrap a previously scheduled official discourse to Polish bishops on the first day of his apostolic journey to Poland, in favour of a private encounter with them during which the Pope and the bishops will be able to listen to each other and converse in total freedom.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Office, explained that the Pope wants the occasion to be as spontaneous and authentic as possible: a moment in which the bishops and the Pope will be at ease and free to exchange opinions and ask questions.
Lombardi pointed out that in fact there have been no real changes to the schedule; rather, he said, the Pope has made it clear that the formula he prefers in these occasions - and it is the one he has most often resorted to during his apostolic journeys - is that of a "familiar encounter and of dialogue".
Thus, Lombardi said, Pope Francis has no intention of addressing the bishops with a grand speech: he wants to talk to them, listen to what they have to say and possibly answer the questions they will be asking in a climate of absolute serenity.
This is the reason, he explained, it has been decided there will be no live television broadcast of the event which will be conducted in a fraternal atmosphere.
Lombardi also recalled that the Pope made exactly the same choice during his visits to the United States, to Mexico, to the African and Latin American countries he visited, when he was in Cuba and even when speaking to his brothers of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
Finally, Lombardi pointed out: "it is not that he is afraid of the media; that we know for sure!" We can all see how available he is to speak to journalists, even on the airplane...
So, Lombardi concluded, it's a question of being very attentive to the occasion: "when he wants a climate of total familiarity, when he wants to make sure people are at ease, he prefers to meet with them in the absence of the media. It's the same, he pointed out, at morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta.
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