Pope Francis: The Name of God is Mercy
Podcast #87 — Aired March 24, 2016

Pope Francis’ message of Mercy is touching people around the world. This week on BetterWorldians Radio, we’re speaking with Vatican journalist, Andrea Tornielli, about his conversations with the Pope that were turned into the book, The Name of God is Mercy. Tornielli will tell listeners what it was like to sit down with the Pope and how the book gives readers a glimpse at the “real heart” of Pope Francis.

Sign Up for New Shows & Updates!

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican journalist, The Name of God is Mercy

Andrea Tornielli is a veteran Vatican reporter, correspondent for La Stampa, and director of the Vatican Insider website. He also writes for a variety of Italian and international magazines. His publications include the first biography of the Pope, Francis: Pope of a New World, which was translated into sixteen languages, and This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice, which was translated into nine languages. His conversations with Pope Francis on the subject of mercy were turned into the book, The Name of God is Mercy.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio. BetterWorldians Radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. Im Ray Hansell joined today by my co-host Gregory Hansell. Better Worldians radio is brought to you by the family team that created the popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. It rewards players for doing good deeds while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. To date, forty million good deeds have been done in A Better World by more than four million people. Good deeds include expressions of gratitude, acts of kindness, and sending notes to real world sick kids, just to name a few. This week were talking with Andrea Tornielli about his conversations with Pope Francis, which turned into the book, The Name of God is Mercy. Andrea Tornielli is a veteran Vatican reporter, correspondent for La Stampa, and director of the Vatican Insider website. He also writes for a variety of Italian and international magazines. His publications include the first biography of the Pope, Francis: Pope of a New World, which was translated into sixteen languages, and This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice, which was translated into nine languages. Andrea thank you for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Andrea
Hello, Im here.

Raymond Hansell
Hello to you, okay, thank you. So tell us, tell our listeners what inspired you to interview Pope Francis on the topic of mercy?

Andrea
I was present in the first mass celebrated by Pope Francis to people on Sunday the seventeenth of March a few days after his election, and he spoke about mercy. But the idea came one year ago exactly when Pope Francis announced the renewal over here, the jubilee of mercy that we got to was a surprise, an announcement made during their penitential liturgy in Saint Peters Basilica. And the Pope announced at the jubilee and I think to myself that if would be interesting to have a conversation with the Pope, focus only on mercy. I didnt think in another interview, cause you know the Pope is giving out every, during every flight, during every trip, a longer and longer press conference. And I had the possibility to make already two interviews with the Pope one to one about different topics, the poor reform, interreligious dialogue, (unintelligible) and so on. But thats the reason why my idea was to, to try, to have the possibility to meet the Pope. But only about, about mercy. And the idea was to allow, to allow for the Pope to express himself and to present his heart. Why mercys so important in his message. What, this was the idea.

Raymond Hansell
And what was it like to meet with the Pope?

Andrea
I send an email with a letter asking for conversation about the topic of mercy. He replied, he didnt say yes or no. But, he wants to know better the project and last July I send a list of topics, a list of questions, more or less thirty questions, and we met in Santa Marta home, which is a small apartment inside the Vatican. And yes, we had the conversation about mercy.

Raymond Hansell
What personal qualities stand out about Pope Francis?

Andrea
I met him ten years, eight years before his election. For the first time when he was Cardinal in Buenos Aires and was so touched by his attitude, his tenderness, his capacity to be near the people and near the people in front of him, and it was, I met a man of dialogues. And now I spoke, its the same. He did not change himself, he was the same, and it was a long conversation during the afternoon, and the personal quality, the first and most important that I saw is the capacity to stay in front of the person and to understand the necessity of the person. You know, when I was here, I got three different recorders, a kind of safety system. Two digital recorder and one old tape recorder. For that reason, I didnt have papers for taking notes, because I was going to record every word in three different machines. But, he saw that I did not have papers and he wanted to go take papers for me, because he said, you dont have paper for taking notes. And it was one example about the fact that hes not only attractive in the dialogue about the most important things, of mercy, but also, its interesting his capacity to stay in front of a person and to understand the necessity of the person in front of him.

Raymond Hansell
How was the process of actually interviewing Pope Francis?

Andrea
The process was so painful because it was a dialogue and not really an interview, we were chatting with a lot of freedom. He go out in front of you, the Bible and another book with the quotations of the father of the church. And, but we were, we were really chatting, and he was speaking out of the book, sorry not explaining very well, he was speaking from his particular experience as a man, a shepherd, and priest and bishop. And its not, I think a kind of theoretical book, its not a book of kind of document of theology. Its more a book of life and a book of experience, because he was speaking about mercy from the point of view of his personal experience.

Raymond Hansell
Can you tell our listeners how the Pope, Pope Francis showed you mercy personally?

Andrea
I think that for, the Pope showed me mercy in the sense that he was able to present the face of a God, and the face of a church, with trying to make everywhere to be near, to be near the people. Hes the face of God and if hes trying every way for giving out his forgiveness and his mercy. And its interesting because we usually arent thinking that it depends, from us that the most important work is our work. In reality the Pope is usually speaking about a God that he is advanced, he take the stuff, hes trying to (unintelligible), hes trying to give us his forgiveness, and to embrace hearts.

Raymond Hansell
Thats wonderful. Were going to take a short break right now. When we return well talk more with Andrea about his conversations with Pope Francis. In the meantime, if youre a fan of BetterWorldians Radio, please check out our game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World encourages habits of goodness, positive mindsets and giving to social causes to make a positive difference in the world. Players do things like express gratitude, share acts of kindness, say prayers, send get well notes to real world sick children, and many more. This month were excited to announce that our charity partner of the month in March is the Integral Heart Foundation in Guatemala. Were challenging our players to complete two hundred and fifty thousand good deeds in the game this month. When they do, well release funds to supply the students at La Academia meals for an entire month. So far weve supported over fifteen causes nationally and internationally helping children and adults through our charity partners such as World Vision, World Relief and Cure International. Weve helped feed the hungry, provide clean drinking water and enabled disabled children to walk for the first time, among many other causes. You can find out more and play at A Better World Facebook dot com slash A Better World.

Raymond Hansell
Youre listening to BetterWorldians Radio. Were speaking with Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli about his conversations with Pope Francis, which you can read in the book, The Name of God is Mercy. Now lets welcome back Andrea and my co-host Gregory Hansell.

Gregory Hansell
Ciao Andrea.

Andrea
Hello.

Gregory Hansell
So tell us, what does mercy mean to Pope Francis?

Andrea
Its interesting because he said that its so important for him. He answered my question explaining that he can read his life in the life of chapter sixteen of the book of the Prophet Ezekiel. And in that chapter the Prophet speaks about shame and the book explains that shame is a grace when one feels the mercy of God, he feels a bit shame for himself and for his sin. And, the Pope is speaking about himself, presenting himself, also now as a Pope and a sinner, a sinner for forgiveness, a sinner who received forgiveness by God. And it isnt, its not a novelty because you know, as we are, we can write this holy work for example in the gospels. Also Saint Peter was a sinner and he was not able to be faithful to Jesus in the, when, in difficult moments for more difficult moment in the final of the life of Jesus Christ. And for that reason also if the first Pope, the first like of Christ of Peter was, it was a sinner. Its interesting the Pope is presenting himself as a sinner, and it is a kind of message of hope for all the people. And also the Pope is not a Saint, maybe that he could be a Saint, but hes presenting himself as a sinner because to recognize himself as a sinner is the most important thing in the Christian life. Because it means to recognize that we need help, we need mercy, we need forgiveness.

Gregory Hansell
Yes I recall that moment in the book when he said he was so consoled by the fact that Peter was forgiven, and in fact became the first Pope. And I think that does connect with this idea of the name of God being mercy for Pope Francis. So then tell me, why does the Pope believe that mercy is so important right now?

Andrea
Because, you know, we continue to battle the fact that mercy and forgiveness are only focused on our personal relationship with God. Our relationship with God. In reality, the Pope is explaining in one answer that mercy and forgiveness are so important, also in our family life, social life, also in the international relationship around the world. Because forgiveness and mercy have this social aspect, and the Pope said that he was touched by the fact that in January 2002 in the first message for the big day of peace, in the first day of the year, that Saint John Paul II, just a few weeks, a few weeks after the big attack in the United States of nine eleven, and presented the message with this headline, there is no justice, there is no peace without justice, there is no justice without forgiveness. And its so interesting because forgiveness is important for reconciliation and peace. For that reason, in our world in which we are in front of a kind of third world war. Also, if until now in different pieces as the Pope is explaining everywhere in the conversation with journalists, in a world with the terrorist, terrorism, and the terrorist attacks happening in Brussels or in Paris last year. With a lot of wars, with a lot of violence, and also with people who are using the name of God for make violence to the other people, mercy is really necessary. And I think that if the Pope decided to announce the theology of mercy, it was because now is a time in which forgiveness and mercy are so necessary, really necessary.

Gregory Hansell
Andrea.

Andrea
Yeah.

Gregory Hansell
Tell us what the Pope means about the apostolate of the year?

Andrea
It interesting about the apostolate of the year because we are living in a society in which all the people are speaking, all the people are sending messages, we have Internet, we have website, theres a lot of messages, a lot of people speaking. But we have no time to read, we have no time to stand in front of the person, not for to speak or to send message, but to receive the message, to hear a problem, to be able to be near the sufferings of the people. So for that reason he is speaking and presenting this apostolate of learning, especially for priests in the sacrament of confession. But also for all the people, all the Christian people asking to be able to hear the other people, to have time to hear the other people. Because this is really a necessity now in our society.

Gregory Hansell
So tell us whats surprised you most about your conversations with Pope Francis?

Andrea
I was surprised for, for one or two of the examples quoted by him, about the fact that the, by a lot of different answer in the book, his, he was so near the different and difficult situation of people. I was surprised about the fact that, in two, more or less in two different examples, for example he was speaking about situation of prostitutes and the necessity of being in front of this difficult situation. To be able to respect the dignity, the human dignity of the people in front of him. And its interesting in the example in which he spoke about when he was the director of Colegio Maximo in Argentina he was a priest and not a bishop, but a mother without husband because her husband abandoned her, and with the children, small children, and she once every year, she was a prostitute for necessity of his life. And she was touched about because (unintelligible) ever in front of her, he continued to say and to speak with her as a lady. And it means that respect human dignity and this kind of tenderness, maybe that could be more important than sometimes a kind of material help.

Gregory Hansell
So how have people reacted to the book, what are they saying?

Andrea
I think that the reaction is interesting and its good. Because the answer is obviously not mine, not for me, its for the capacity of the Pope to speak directly and simply, but touching also the heart of people. But people are reacting, taking into consideration the fact that the book is simple, its not difficult to read. I met a lot of people who are explaining to me that they read the book, and then they also reread another time the book, and I received a lot of messages from people around the world and they are sending me the message that they were touched by the message of mercy explained in the book by the Pope. I think the reaction was good.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, that was certainly my reaction reading the book. From that story that you told about the woman who was the prostitute and the amazing tenderness that Pope Francis showed to her. You can see his own capacity for mercy that he certainly practicing what he preaches there. And throughout the examples of the book, this profound tenderness, this compassion, this mercy for everyone, for all of humanity. And that the idea that there is this forgiveness of God and this mercy from God reaching out to all of us. So that was certainly how I felt as well. I was wondering how do you hope people, what do you hope people gain from reading your interview with Pope Francis? What do you hope they take away?

Andrea
I think, I hope that they could take away more knowledge of the real heart of the Pope, and to be more conscious about the importance of the message of mercy for our world, at this specific moment of our history, and in our societies. I think that this is the goal and I hope that it could be gained. This is also the intention, the hope of the Pope because when we finished the conversation and he approved the final text of the book.

Gregory Hansell
So I have a question I ask every week to all our guests, and in this case maybe its a very big and difficult question, but let me ask it. How do you believe Pope Francis is helping to make the world a better place?

Andrea
I think that with his personal testimony of tenderness, hes teaching us, hes explaining to us, more with his gesture and with his attitude, then with his words, we can better say in the sometime with words then gestures, with words and personal testimony about the fact that we are social animals, we need to stay with other people, and that the heart of the Christian message is to be near the suffering of people. And that means to evangelize the announcement of the gospel of Jesus is first of all to be near people who are suffering, poor people, and also people with spiritual problem. But to be near the people, to help the people, and this is the most important thing. I think that when we are seeing, when were watching the Pope in Saint Peters Square with the person with the sick, with embracing people and spending a lot of time in this contact with the person. Hes teaching us that this is the Christian style, and also this is the most important thing for the human being, for every human being.

Raymond Hansell
Well thats an amazing message that you have delivered to us today and to all of our listeners. I think its very fitting that we are hearing this message during Holy Week throughout the world, and that people of all faiths can resonate with the message delivered by the Pope himself through this wonderful work of compassion and understanding, and ultimately mercy. You can read about Andrea Torniellis interview with Pope Francis by picking up the book, The Name of God is Mercy. Andrea thank you for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Andrea
Okay, thank you very much.

Raymond Hansell
Youre very welcome. By the way if youre enjoying this episode of BetterWorldians Radio, please be sure to subscribe to our show on iTunes and give us a review. Were always listening for your feedback, let us know what you think. As we end our show we like to strive, we like to share our, a message here at BetterWorldians. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone, so that we can all make it a better world. And so until next time, be a BetterWorldian.