Pope Francis has criticized Catholic traditionalists for wanting to “return to the ashes” of the past, rather than use the deep roots of the Church’s tradition in order to grow, flourish and move forward.
“The tradition of the church is always in motion,” he told reporters June 2 on his return flight from Romania. The pope spoke to them for 35 minutes, answering five questions.
“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,” he said.
When asked about his relationship with this predecessor, the pope said his conversations with Benedict XVI make him stronger and he compared the knowledge he receives from the former pope as the sap “from the roots that help me to go forward.”
“When I hear him speak, I become strong,” Francis explained. “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.”
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.
Referring to his remarks in Romania about unity, Francis was asked about growing divisions within the European Union.
“If Europe does not guard well against future challenges, Europe will wither away,” he said. While cultural differences must be respected, Europeans must not give in “to pessimism or ideologies.”
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.
Where there is tension or conflict, he said, Christians must have “a relationship with an outstretched hand.”
“We must go forward together,” Francis said, “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.”