Geographic Travels: How does Pope Francis' unique papal background, being a Jesuit from South America, impact his outlook and vision for the Church?
Andrea Tornielli: His experience as a Jesuit from South America is going to impact his pontificate: the direct style when he meets people, the special attention to the poor, the knowledge of the consequences of the globalization process, the idea of a Church that needs to "facilitate" the faith of people more than "regulate" it.
GT: Pope Francis was heavily involved in the Eastern Rite while in Argentina. Do you see, and if so how, Francis taking a more active role to protect Eastern Christians who now face rising persecution?
AT: During the meeting with the new patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphaël I Sako, he cried hearing the stories of Christians persecuted. I think he will continue in the line of Benedict. The former Pope elevated to Cardinal the Eastern patriarch Emmanuel Delly of Irak, Sako's predecessor, and Bechara Rai of Lyban. I believe Francis will also express his closeness to persecuted Christians. The possibility for a trip to Jerusalem fifty years after the historical pilgrimage of Paul VI and the recent meeting with orthodox patriarch Athenagoras - it could be a step in this direction.
GT: There was talk in the Western press about the "need" for a non-European pope. Many reporters had in mind a few cardinals from Africa and reported on African hopes for an African pope. How will Pope Francis reach out to the growing church in Africa and Asia?
AT: The African and Asian Cardinals were the first electors of the new Pope during the first ballots of the conclave. I think with an outlook focused on mission, he naturally could reach out to the growing church in Africa and Asia. Bergoglio said often that the Church must not be "auto-referencial" but needs to be focused on mission, near the people.
GT: Pope Benedict XVI tried to have the Communist Chinese government free the Church in China. Do you expect Pope Francis to be able to make any ground with Beijing?
AT: The process will take time, and patience, a lot of patience. It is necessary to repair the relationship, and demonstrate to the Chinese government that the Catholic Church has no political interests and that the Holy See is not intending to provoke in China the historical "polish effect" as Pope John Paul II did in Poland. It will also depend on the new Secretary of State.
GT: Development, globalization, government-allowed corny capitalism, trade, debt relief, and bailouts are major issues around the world. What are Pope Francis' approaches to these issues?
AT: I think that will be an approach of a man who knows the consequences of globalization, the problem of poverty, the necessity of equal development very well: I don't think that he will be a "political" or "geopolitical" pope, but at the same time I think he will speak without any problem defending the poor or persecuted.