In the book “From the poor to the Pope, from the Pope to the world” published on April 1 by Editions du Seuil, Pope Francis answered freely – and simply – to a hundred questions asked by poor people around the world. An unlikely, invigorating and unique dialogue.
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has testified of his closeness to the poor. But it may be the first time we see him surrender directly and so easily to the poor. In a book interview published on Thursday, April 1 by Editions du Seuil, From the poor to the pope, from the pope to the worldwe discover a refreshing dialogue between Francis, which responds directly to questions from poor people around the world.
The project was born in May 2020, when the world had just experienced total confinement in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. An audience with Pope Francis was planned for the tenth anniversary of the Lazare Association, which offers solidarity-based shared housing between young working people and the homeless. “Oddly enough, the pope did not cancel the agreement, and suddenly we did not either!”, Remembers Pierre Durieux, general secretary of the association. They decide to offer a video conference to the pope by writing him a very simple message: “We simply have to use wifi and we will take care of everything. »And his answer, just as simple, did not wait:« Yes, come on, there will be wifi. A small delegation from the association therefore went there to arrange a meeting with … a dozen Lazare houses! “We were amazed, dazzled,” Pierre Durieux recalls. “We had the feeling that it was not yet an agreement for the pope, but that he was simply happy to be there, like a grandfather who finds his grandchildren after a long period of confinement.”
1,000 questions collected
After an hour and a half, Christian, vice-chairman of the association “who has known the galley”, exclaims: “Now can we have lunch? “Unfortunately, it was not possible for Pope Francis, but we felt he would have been keen to stay,” continues Pierre Durieux. expand the exercise in the form of a book and by expanding the exchange to the poor all over the world. “He did not say yes right away and just told us he would think about it. A few days later, François’ answer arrived, accepting the principle of a book and asked to “gather the questions and, if possible, classify them.” »
The Lazare Association asks other associations working with the poor (DCC, Fidesco, Enfants du Mékong, etc.) to connect them with its approach. “Throughout the fall of 2020, these associations even collected the poor’s issues before transcribing them on a website, Just a question to the Pope, which we had opened for the apartment, in six languages ”, Pierre Durieux resumes. In total, more than 1,000 questions are collected from more than 80 countries and asked by homeless people, prostitutes, street children or prisoners. “Since some are superfluous, we have selected hundreds to submit to the pope.”
A roommate asked a question, the pope answered it and everyone could bid before moving on to another question, it was very lively and very simple.
To pursue this logic of “flesh-and-blood maintenance, incarnated,” it is decided that a handful of “people in difficulty” who speak French and Spanish (eight in all) will go to the Vatican to ask them, accompanied by officials from Lazare. Employment will therefore take place in May, June and August 2021 with François. “A roommate asked a question, the pope answered it, and everyone could outbid before moving on to another question, it was very lively and very simple,” Pierre Durieux emphasizes again.
“What struck me personally, even before what he said, was the person who said it,” Lazare’s secretary general recalls when asked about these meetings. “The gesture, the picture, the Pope’s face is the first impression we had when we entered, and perhaps the last. This is the first hearing where I had the feeling that we had broken the minutes of a meeting in all simplicity and depth. . During the last audience of Lazarus’ delegation, Francis even renounces his official speech for a straightforward exchange. ” he said, worrying that the translator was getting a glass of water, that we have small cakes available, if we were hungry, would even pick up two books that were missing, to give them to us as gifts … All these little details show that he saw what he said. »
The poor took him out of his comfort zone with their questions, but his answers are undoubtedly universal in scope.
Who is this book aimed at? “The questions that are being asked are those of the poor and have not been rectified,” assures Pierre Durieux. “We respected and transcribed the pope’s words as faithfully as possible, and they were hardly changed by Francis during the proofreading. But the pope’s response is addressed to the whole world. “The poor took him out of his comfort zone with their questions, but his answers are undoubtedly universal. »
Anecdotes about his past, his way of praying, but also his views on the difficulties that the Church is going through, everything takes place there. But if the book allows us to discover new facets of Frans, it is above all a matter of fundamentally deepening the common thread in his pontificate: the poor. “As soon as he was elected, he chose the name François, ofPovorello of Assisi and from his first speech he shared his dream of a poor church for the poor. “If there is one memory of John Paul II, it will be the youth pope, WYD,” Pierre Durieux sums up. “If there is one memory of Benedict XVI, it will be a theologian, mysterious and luminous pope. For Francis, he will be the pope of the poor, and this book, this dialogue with the poor, is one of the most beautiful illustrations of this. . »