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Pope Francis sat down exclusively with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell at the Vatican April 24, 2024, for an interview ahead of the Vatican’s inaugural World Children’s Day. The CBS interview marked the first time a pope has given an in-depth, one-on-one interview to a U.S. broadcast network, according to CBS.
Pope Francis sat down exclusively with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell at the Vatican April 24, 2024, for an interview ahead of the Vatican’s inaugural World Children’s Day. The CBS interview marked the first time a pope has given an in-depth, one-on-one interview to a U.S. broadcast network, according to CBS.
Photo Credit: courtesy 60 minutes/CBS NEWS

Pope Francis’ CBS interview addresses women deacons, war, migrants, climate change and hope

In interview with CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, he addressed women deacons, war, migrants, climate change and hope

Pope Francis said he is not open to the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, weeks after authorizing several Vatican study groups to look into that issue and others as part of the Synod on Synodality — although “women have always had … the function of deaconesses without being deacons,” and that “making space in the Church for women does not mean giving them a ministry.”

In addition, Pope Francis said his health is “fine,” and that “it has never occurred” to him to retire, noting that his “only infirmity” — an inflamed knee ligament that has seen him use a walking stick or, more frequently, a wheelchair — is “getting much better.”

The pope shared his thoughts during a wide-ranging interview with CBS news anchor Norah O’Donnell, his first sit-down interview with a U.S. broadcast network.

Throughout the exchange, Pope Francis underscored his soft-spoken but energetic responses — delivered in Spanish through an interpreter — with emphatic gestures.

He met with O’Donnell April 24 at his residence, Casa Santa Marta. A roughly 13-minute portion of the interview aired May 19 on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program, with the balance of the session broadcast in a one-hour primetime special May 20 on the network and its Paramount+ streaming platform.

Over the course of the May 20 broadcast, O’Donnell asked Pope Francis about key issues that have dominated his 11-year papacy: migration, climate change, clerical sexual abuse, the role of women in the Church, ministry to persons who identify as LGBTQ+, and outreach to children and youth who have been profoundly impacted by rapidly evolving and increasingly toxic social media platforms.

She also questioned him about the Israel-Hamas war and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.

In particular, O’Donnell asked Pope Francis about the children of Gaza ahead of the Catholic Church’s inaugural World Children’s Day May 25-26, an observance instituted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education.

When O’Donnell, citing the United Nations, said that more than a million in Gaza, mostly children, would face famine on World Children’s Day, Pope Francis replied, “Not just in Gaza. Think of Ukraine.”

Noting “there are now pictures of starving children coming out of Gaza,” O’Donnell then asked the pope for his response to “those that call that a genocide.”

The pope looked down briefly, then up at O’Donnell, and simply repeated the word, “Genocide.”

Noting that the pope has repeatedly called for a ceasefire, O’Donnell asked, “Can you help negotiate peace?”

The pope sighed and replied, “What I can do is pray. I pray a lot for peace. And also, to suggest, ‘Please, stop. Negotiate.’ A bad deal is always better than an ugly defeat, is it not? … The white flag is for negotiating, not for surrendering, but for negotiating. And wars are resolved through negotiation. Think of the dead.”

O’Donnell then focused on the plight of migrants, especially those at the U.S.-Mexico border, many of whom are “mothers with children who are fleeing violence.”

“The solution is … to open the doors to migration,” said Pope Francis, citing “four things” necessary — enumerated in his 2018 message for World Migrants Day — for a good immigration policy: “for the migrant to be received, assisted, promoted and integrated.”

Asked by O’Donnell about his fears regarding climate change, the pope said, “Unfortunately, we have gotten to a point of no return. It’s sad, but that’s what it is. … Climate change at this moment is a road to death. … And it is an artificial climate change, no? Something provoked, not the normal climate change, right?”

In a particularly poignant moment in the interview, O’Donnell asked the pope about the Church’s rejection of surrogacy, saying she knows women who are cancer survivors for whom the practice has become “the only hope” for having a child.

Pope Francis reaffirmed Church teaching on the point, saying that surrogacy has sometimes “become a business, and that is very bad.”

He also said that for infertile women, “the other hope is adoption,” and stressed that “in each case the situation should be carefully and clearly considered, consulting medically and then morally as well.”

On “Fiducia Supplicans,” the controversial declaration issued by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2023 that includes guidelines on what is calls the “blessings of same-sex couples,” Pope Francis clarified that he didn’t allow blessings of “the union” but of “each person.”

“What I allowed was not to bless the union,” the pope said, correcting O’Donnell on the wording of her question, in which she stated that the pope had “decided to allow Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples.”

Asked by O’Donnell if the Catholic Church had “done enough” to reform and repent of clerical sexual abuse, Pope Francis said “it must continue to do more” since “the tragedy of the abuses is enormous.”

He also stressed the need to “not only … not permit it but to put in place the conditions so that it does not happen.”

“It cannot be tolerated,” Pope Francis said. “When there is a case of a religious man or woman who abuses, the full force of the law falls upon them. In this there has been a great deal of progress.”

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