SOUTH ORANGE, NJ--Not many journalists can point to one interview and say that it changed their life dramatically. Then again, not many journalists have the opportunity to interview a sitting pope. 

The Rev. Antonio Sparado's revealing interview in August 2013 with then recently-elected Pope Francis was noted for its candor from the pope. Francis spoke freely on issues such as abortion, the use of contraceptives and the role women in the church, voicing opinions that many saw as a shift away from traditional Vatican viewpoints. 

On Thursday, Spadaro spoke at Seton Hall University about his now-famous interview, which he says “was a great spiritual experience.”

Sign Up for E-News

Spadaro, who is the editor-in-chief of the Italian Jesuit periodical La Civiltá Cattolica in which the interview was published, said that he and the pope had much in common due to their mutual Jesuit background.

“We didn’t speak Italian or Spanish, we spoke the Jesuit language,” Spadaro joked.
Spadaro emphasized the humility of Pope Francis, who chooses to live in a Vatican guesthouse of the Apostolic Palace.

“His humanity calls for a relationship that is never codified as it must be in a formal interview,” Spadaro told the audience. He added that he decided to stop taking notes during the interview in order to let the conversation flow more naturally, which came easily for him with Francis.

The more Spadaro spoke, the more apparent it became that his meeting with Francis not only resulted in a fascinating interview for the public, but deeply resonated spiritually with the priest who was asking the questions. He reiterated that it wasn’t an interview but rather a “sincere, honest dialogue.”

Responding to a question from an audience member about the personal impact the experience had on him, Spadaro tried to emphasize the magnitude of the encounter.

“I’ve been a priest since 1996," he said. "I joined the society of Jesus in 1988. I’m rediscovering the freshness of the gospel (now) due to this man.”

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.