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#TFImoments: Cindy Wooden on the evolution of papal press conferences

August 16, 2018
Pope Francis’ words and actions have had a profound impact on countless people of various backgrounds, interests, and beliefs. In the interviews for my upcoming documentary, The Francis Impact, I’ve heard some beautiful and concrete testimonies of this. So I created #TFIMOMENTS, a web series to share some of these profound and personal moments of connection with the pope.
One of the most sudden and drastic shifts from the pontificate of Benedict XVI to that of Francis was in their method of communicating.
Benedict, as a theologian, tended to speak precisely in a systematic way. Francis speaks plainly and often, without warning or even a prepared text.
In this week’s #TFImoment, distinguished Vatican journalist Cindy Wooden recalls the first time Pope Francis gave a press conference on board the papal plane, returning to Rome after World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
That press conference would become famous when Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” referring to those who are gay and searching for the Lord with good will. But the broader context of that sound-bite, as Cindy relates, was the experience with Francis welcoming an open conversation with the journalists, encouraging them to ask whatever they wanted!
The former director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, once told me that Pope Francis is insistent on dialogue: dialogue with journalists, dialogue with politicians, dialogue with everybody! And his in-flight press conferences are a way of modelling authentic dialogue through attentive listening and sincere interaction. As Cindy points out, “He refers to it as a conversation with the journalists,” and a conversation implies two-way communication.
It’s precisely in these moments of encounter, according to Francis, that the Holy Spirit is at work leading those participating with an open mind to a greater experience of Christ in the other. The dialogue with Francis on board the plane certainly made an impression on Cindy and her colleagues.
For more information about The Francis Impact visit the official webpage.
Next #TFImoment: Jordan Denari Duffner, author of Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic.
The Francis Impact poster