Understandably, reaction to Pope Francis’s latest airborne news conference on Aug. 18, during his return flight from South Korea to Rome, has centered on whether his comments on US airstrikes in Iraq represent an endorsement or a rebuke.
The pontiff played it down the middle, saying it’s legitimate to stop an unjust aggressor but that doesn’t necessarily mean dropping bombs and certainly not a “war of conquest,” and in any event it would be better to have a UN warrant.
Whatever one makes of the answer, everyone knew the question was coming and the pope had been prepped. His words seemed to reflect some diplomatic balance and circumspection, rather than his trademark spontaneity.
If you want the best insight from that session into who Francis really is, you need to look elsewhere.
It came at the beginning, when a Korean journalist asked the pope about his outreach during the visit with families of victims of the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster, a shipwreck that claimed more than 300 lives, mostly high school students.
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