Pope Francis blesses a child before holding a Holy Mass at a baseball stadium in Nagasaki on Nov. 24. The pope railed against the use of nuclear weapons and the growing arms trade. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)
Pope Francis thinks “the West could do with a little more poetry” and that Asia could provide an example of how to achieve that goal.
Asked at an hour-long press conference on board his flight back to Rome from Japan on Nov. 26 about what the West and the Church in the West should learn from the East and the Church there, the pope responded that an Asian contemplative approach to life is needed in the West.
“The saying 'lux ex Oriente, ex Occidente luxus' inspired me a lot. Light comes from the East; luxury, consumerism, come from the West. There is this type of Eastern wisdom, which is not only the wisdom of knowing but of time, of contemplation,” he said.
“It would be very helpful to our Western society, which is always in too much of a hurry, to learn contemplation, the act of stopping and looking poetically at things too. This is a personal opinion, but I think the West could do with a little more poetry.”
The pope spoke in response to a question from a reporter from the Katorikku Shinbum, Japan’s Catholic weekly newspaper.
He continued, “The East is capable of looking at things with eyes that go beyond. I don’t want to use the word ‘transcendent’ because some Eastern religions don’t mention transcendence, but have a vision that goes beyond the limit of immanence, but without saying transcendence.
“That is why I use expressions like poetry ... the search for personal perfection through fasting, penance, reading the wisdom of the Eastern sages. I believe it would do us Westerners good to stop a bit and give time to wisdom.”
In response to other questions, Francis repeated his condemnation of nuclear weapons, adding that he intends to add to the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the use, and even possession, of such weapons is immoral.
“I reiterated that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral, that is why it must be added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Not only their use but also possessing them: because of an accident or the madness of some government leader, one person’s madness can destroy humanity. The words of Einstein come to mind: ‘The Fourth World War will be fought with sticks and stones.’”
In his talk to survivors of the nuclear plant explosion and meltdown in Fukushima that followed the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, Francis pointed out that the bishops of Japan have called for the abolition of nuclear power plants. However, he did not explicitly endorse that position.
On the plane, he clarified his position on nuclear power generation.
“The use of nuclear power has limits because we have not yet achieved absolute safety. You could tell me that even electricity could cause a disaster because of lack of safety, but it would be a very small disaster. A nuclear power plant disaster will be huge disaster. Safety systems have not been worked out yet. It is my personal opinion, but I would not use nuclear energy until its use is completely safe.”