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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new book marking the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis' pontificate is portraying the Holy Father as a compassionate conservative who supports capitalism and rejects Peronism.
In a Spanish narrative biography titled The Pastor: Challenges, Reasons and Reflections of Francis on His Pontificate, Francis reveals that his pontificate "will be evaluated largely by how he has dealt with the scourge" of clerical sex abuse.
Punctuated by extensive interviews that cover Francis' decade-long reign, the book, authored by journalists Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti and published by Penguin Books, offers an intimate portrait of the former cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires.
"It is important to defend life at all times, not only from conception, but until natural death," Francis stresses, reiterating his opposition to abortion and euthanasia but urging the pastoral accompaniment of women who abort their babies "because it is certainly a traumatic decision with emotional consequences."
Francis wants homosexuals who have "suffered the 'rejection of the Church' (because of their homosexual orientation)," to "know that it is not the 'rejection of the Church,' but of 'individuals in the Church.'"
"The Church is mother and summons all her children," the pope pleads. "In the case of parents (with a gay son), ignoring him, let alone pushing him away, is a lack of paternity and maternity."
"I do not condemn capitalism as some judge me. I am not against the market either, but rather in favor of what John Paul II defined as a 'social market economy,'" Francis clarifies.
Using the metaphor of a three-legged table, the pope insists on the leg of state regulation serving as a mediator alongside the two other legs of capital and labor.
"My focus is on a preferential option for the poor because that's what Jesus did and what the gospel proclaims. What I think we can all agree on is that wealth concentration and inequality have increased. And that there are a lot of people starving," the pope points out.
"Nowhere in the Bible is there a commandment to produce poverty. Yes, the poor in spirit are blessed, the one who is not attached to wealth. But by no means is it wrong to produce wealth for the good of all. I would say more: producing is an act of justice," Francis adds.
"In short, wealth must always be participatory. If it closes in on itself, it hurts, or at least it is sterile, it is not fruitful," Francis explains. "In a certain sense, capitalism is almost a thing of the past."
"I was never affiliated with the Peronist party, nor was I a militant or supporter of Peronism. Claiming that is a lie. I was also not affiliated with the Guardia de Hierro [Iron Guard — a political organization associated with the political ideology of Argentinian General Juan Peron]. But, hypothetically speaking, what's wrong with having a Peronist view of politics?" Francis asks.
Addressing the problem of the dole, Francis insists that "state economic aid to the unemployed must be temporary so as not to affect the culture of work."
"In addition, let us keep in mind that work adds to the dignity of the person. It is one thing to live from charity and another to earn it with one's own effort," he observes.
"The violations of the dignity of the worker and his rights not only come from certain employers, but also from those unions that get sick because their leaders are slowly raising their standard of living and forgetting their representatives," Francis adds.
In the 19 chapters of the book's 346 pages, the pope discusses his career before priesthood, his vocation and his early years as a priest and bishop in Argentina, revealing that he considered pursuing medicine while he was studying chemistry.
But, as his mother noticed, his textbooks were more theological, and this would lead him to be a "doctor of souls."
"I had my crises of faith, but I overcame them with God's help," he admits, talking about his psychological trials during his priestly ministry. "In any case, a faith that does not put us in crisis is a faith in crisis. Just as a faith that doesn't let us grow is a faith that must grow."
The pontiff says that his mandate "is to carry out what the cardinals declared in the general congregations on the eve of the conclave." This includes revitalizing the proclamation of the gospel, reducing Vatican centralization, ending pedophilia and fighting economic corruption.
Francis affirms the good faith of the "vast majority" in the Church but accuses "some ecclesiastics and many, I would say, false lay 'friends' of the Church of contributing to unduly taking possession of the movable and immovable assets, not of the Vatican, but of the faithful."
Referring then to the story of the London property scandal, he notes that the "suspicious purchase" was detected in the Vatican itself and that in the present day, "the Vatican administration has the resources to shed light on the bad things happening internally."
"Money is a strong temptation. The devil enters through the pocket, corruption begins with money and consciences are bought with money. And in the Church, this unfortunately happened. At the Vatican bank I had to 'cut off heads,'" Francis asserts.
Francis defends himself against accusations of politicizing the gospel: "Yes, I do politics. Because everyone has to do politics. Christian people have to do politics. When we read what Jesus said, we see that he was involved in politics."
"And what is politics?" the pope asks. "A lifestyle for the polis, for the city. What I don't do, nor should the Church do, is party politics. But the gospel has a political dimension, which is that of converting people's social, even religious, mentality."
Though he does not possess a cell phone, "contact with people is very important to me, they know it. When I can, I call those who write to me, especially those who need comfort or older people who are alone. I always did," Francis emphasizes.
In fact, he underlines "nearness" as the keyword of his pontificate. When asked if "mercy" is really the highlight of his Petrine vocation, he responds: "Nearness leads to mercy."
"I am happy because I followed my vocation, and I can develop it. But I don't have the formula, otherwise I would sell it. Opening up to others helps. Licking the sore never makes you happy," he remarks.
And, despite his detractors calling him "vinegar face" he insists, "Yes, I am a happy man. I was one in my childhood and throughout my priestly life. I still am."
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