Last year, I wrote a few times about Pope Francis’ encounters with the journalist Eugenio Scalfari,the 90-year-old atheist intellectual who has been editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica for twenty years.
Lat summer, Scalfari’s recollections about his personal interview with the pope caused controversy here in the United States and among Catholics around the world–leading Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi to insist that the words in his interview “cannot be attributed to the Pope.”
In July 2013, Scalfari challenged Pope Francis in the pages of La Repubblica to explain certain passages in the Scriptures. Scalfari delved into Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith), the pope’s first encyclical, raising questions about sin, truth, and the will of God. Pope Francis accepted the challenge, writing a 2,500-word response on faith and conscience, which was published on the front page of La Repubblica.
Here, my earlier post regarding the Scalfari column and the Holy Father’s response: Surprise Dr. Scalfari! Pope Francis Answers an Atheist’s Questions, and Reaches Out to Unbelievers.
And here, my report on the follow-up meeting, in which Pope Francis welcomed Scalfari to the Vatican: Proselytize NO, Evangelize YES, Said Pope Francis.
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Now from the Catholic Herald, news that the 90-year-old atheist intellectual who was for 20 years editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica has asked Pope Francis to bless his family.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said: “I have told the Pope something else. I want him to bless my family. ‘Whatever you want,’ he told me. ‘Just call me and I will receive your family and bless them.’”
Is this merely polite chatter, something for an experienced journalist to say when addressing the pope? Or have Pope Francis’ generous and respectful response to a potential adversary caused the elderly Scalfari to consider faith?
One can only hope. No–one can hope and pray.