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Pope Francis said Sunday that his relationship with Benedict XVI gives him strength and reminds him of the living tradition of the Church.

“When I hear him speak, I become strong. I hear this story of the Church,” Pope Francis said of Benedict in an in-flight press conference June 2.

Speaking aboard the papal flight returning from Romania, Francis said that each time he visits the pope emeritus, he feels more like family.

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“Every time I go to visit him I feel like that, I take his hand and get him to talk. He speaks little, slowly, but with the same depth, as always — because Benedict’s problem is his knees, not his head,” he said.

“He has a great lucidity, as always,” Francis added.

Pope Francis commented that Benedict XVI reminds him that “the tradition of the Church is always in motion.” He compared tradition to “a tree that grows, flourishes, and bears fruit.”

“Tradition is the guarantee of the future and not the keeper of the ashes. It’s not a museum,” he said, paraphrasing a quote from composer Gustav Mahler.

Pope Francis also commented on the future of Europe following the European Parliament elections on May 26.

“Europe must talk … If Europe does not look well at future challenges, Europe will wither, it will be withered,” he said.

“Please do not let Europe be overcome by pessimism and ideologies,” he said. “Because Europe is attacked not with cannons or bombs, but with ideologies. Ideologies that are not European, that come from outside and are born in small groups in Europe.”

“Pray for Europe,” Pope Francis said. “Pray for Europe, for unity, for the Lord give us the grace.”

Pope Francis commented that Romania has not suffered from a demographic winter seen in other countries in Europe, but has had “an impressive level of births.”

During his apostolic visit to Romania May 31 – June 2, Pope Francis traveled to the cities of Bucharest, Sumuleu-Ciuc, Iași, and Blaj. He celebrated Mass at a Marian pilgrimage site in Transylvania, and presided over the beatification of seven martyred Greek-Catholic bishops in a Greek-Catholic Divine Liturgy.

Due to poor weather conditions, Pope Francis had to travel by car rather than by helicopter as scheduled. Francis said that the unexpected storm was “a grace from God” because he was able to see the “beautiful landscape.” “I have crossed the whole of Transylvania. It is beautiful and I have never seen anything like it,” he said.


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