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The takeaways from the AP interview: Pope disapproves of gun use expansion

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis lamented that citizens’ use of guns to defend themselves is becoming a “habit”.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, the pope, who has regularly criticized the arms industry, was asked about the high number of guns in civilian hands and frequent massacres in the United States. Francis expressed concern about how gun use has become a “habit.”

“I say that when you have to defend yourself, all that remains is to have the elements to defend yourself. Another thing is how that need to defend itself gets longer, gets longer and becomes a habit,” Francis said. “Instead of making the effort to help us live, we make the effort to help us kill.”

Francis has denounced the arms industry as human trafficking. Francis said he wants to draw attention to the problem by saying, “Please let’s say something that will stop this.”

The AP asked the question about the distribution of weapons among civilians after there had been several shootings in recent days, including in California.

Here are some other key takeaways from the interview.

ABOUT ‘PATIENCE’ WITH CHINA

In saying “we must walk patiently in China,” Pope Francis sees ongoing dialogue with Beijing as the guiding principle in his efforts to protect his flock, which is a small minority in the Asian nation.

The AP asked what comes next in the diplomatic rapprochement between the countries.

“We are taking steps,” Francis replied. “Every case (of the appointment of a bishop) is looked at with a magnifying glass.” The pope added that “that’s the main thing, the dialogue doesn’t break.”

As for the Chinese authorities, “sometimes they are a bit closed, sometimes not,” Francis said.

The pope evaded a question about how the Vatican’s relationship with Taiwan affects dialogue. The Holy See is one of the few states that maintains formal ties with Taiwan rather than China.

Francis has been criticized by more conservative factions of the Catholic Church for a 2018 agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops in China, given that country’s communist authorities have sometimes jailed priests. One of his fiercest critics is Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

In the interview, Francis called Zen, who is 91, a “charming old man” and a “tender soul.” He told how when the cardinal came to Rome this month for the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI, the pope invited him to the Vatican hotel where Francis lives. In front of the Pope’s private study is a statue representing Our Lady of Sheshan. Francis said that when the cardinal saw it, “he began to cry, like a child.”

Zen was arrested last year after running afoul of Hong Kong authorities over his participation in a democracy movement that has now been silenced.

Pope Francis has stepped up his criticism of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. He called laws criminalizing homosexuals unjust, but reiterated the Catholic Church’s teaching that homosexual activity is sinful.

“Being gay is not a crime. It’s not a crime. Yes, it’s a sin. Yes, but first let’s distinguish between sin and crime,” he said.

ABOUT POPULAR HEALTH AND PENSION

The 86-year-old pope was asked to assess his health.

“I am in good health. I am normal for my age. I may die tomorrow, but I’m under control. I always ask for the grace that the Lord will give me a sense of humor,” he said.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was the first pope to resign in 600 years. After Benedict’s death, Francis was also asked about the need for rules for any future retirement.

“After a little more experience … it could become more regularized or regulated,” he said. “But for now it hasn’t occurred to me.”

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