Flemish Catholic newspaper gets rare interview with pope

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Belgium’s most beautiful city is Bruges, according to Pope Francis, speaking in a rare interview published this week in the Flemish Catholic weekly Tertio.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio visited Belgium frequently between 1973 and 1979 in his then function as provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina. “That’s when I started to fall in love with Belgium,” he told Tertio. “But for me the most beautiful city is not Ghent or Antwerp, but Bruges.”

Though the pope (pictured) is not planning to attend the commemoration of the end of the First World War in 2018, he did stress the dangers of another world war. “The slogan No More War has never been taken seriously,” he said, “and there is a lack of leaders who are progressive.”

The world is suffering from a collective case of what he called “cardiosclerosis” – the hardening of hearts against each other. But he had a message for the youth of the world: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed of your faith. Tell it to the world. I advise young people two things: Seek new horizons and don’t throw your 20s away on superficial matters.”

The Antwerp-based Tertio obtained the rare access to the pope on 16 November in the Vatican, where they spoke for 40 minutes. The atmosphere was friendly, the paper said, with moments of humour and no sense at all of being under pressure.

“There was no sign of protocol or formalism,” the paper said in a statement. “No cardinals in sight, just a few security people and press officers. Tertio even forgot for a moment they were dealing with the Bishop of Rome, the direct successor of Saint Peter, so normal and familiar did Francis seem to be.”

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