In democracy’s birthplace, pope warns of populist threats


ATHENS, Greece — Pope Francis warned Saturday that the “simple solutions” of populism and authoritarianism are threatening democracy in Europe and known as for contemporary dedication to selling the frequent good moderately than slender, nationalist pursuits.

“Politics wants this, to be able to put frequent wants forward of personal pursuits,” Francis stated. “But we can’t keep away from noting with concern how as we speak, and never solely in Europe, we’re witnessing a retreat from democracy.”

Francis, who lived by Argentina’s populist Peronist period in addition to its navy dictatorship, has regularly warned about the specter of authoritarianism and populism and the hazard it poses to the European Union and democracy itself.

He did not identify any particular nations or leaders throughout his speech. The EU, nonetheless, is locked in a feud with members Poland and Hungary over rule-of-law points, with Warsaw insisting that Polish legislation takes priority over EU insurance policies and rules.

Coincidentally, on the identical day Francis warned concerning the populist risk to Europe, right-wing populist leaders met in Warsaw and declared they’ll work extra carefully collectively to defend their sovereignty on the European Parliament.

Exterior the bloc, populist leaders in Brazil and the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump pressed nationalist insurance policies on the surroundings that contrasted sharply with Francis’ name to take care of “our frequent house.”

Opening the second leg of his five-day journey to Cyprus and Greece, Francis recalled that it was in Greece, in keeping with Aristotle, that man grew to become acutely aware of being a “political animal” and a member of a group of fellow residents.

“Right here, democracy was born,” Francis advised Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. “That cradle, 1000’s of years later, was to change into a home, a terrific home of democratic peoples. I’m talking of the European Union and the dream of peace and fraternity that it represents for thus many peoples.”

That dream is in danger amid the financial upheaval and different disruptions of the pandemic that may breed nationalist sentiments and make authoritarianism appear “compelling and populism’s simple solutions seem enticing,” Francis stated.

“The treatment is to not be present in an obsessive quest for recognition, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic guarantees … however in good politics,” he stated.

Francis praised the “crucial vaccination marketing campaign” promoted by governments to tame the coronavirus. He referenced one other Greek doctor-philosopher — Hippocrates — in response to vaccine skeptics and virus deniers, who rely many spiritual conservatives amongst them. Francis cited the Hippocratic oath to not solely do what’s finest for the sick, however to “abstain from no matter is dangerous and offensive to others,” particularly the aged.

Greece’s president echoed the sentiment. “The virus spreads and mutates, helped by the irrational denial of actuality and inequalities in our societies,” Sakellaropoulou stated.

Greece is grappling with its highest degree of coronavirus infections for the reason that begin of the pandemic, with deaths approaching file ranges. 1 / 4 of the nation’s adults stay unvaccinated, and Parliament not too long ago authorised a vaccine mandate for folks over age 60.

Francis’ journey has been clouded by the Dec. 2 loss of life of the Vatican’s ambassador to the European Union, Archbishop Aldo Giordano, amongst a number of prelates who examined optimistic for COVID-19 after celebrating Francis’ last Mass in Slovakia in September. The Vatican’s EU embassy insisted that Giordano caught the virus days earlier throughout a European bishops’ assembly in Hungary.

Francis’ go to to Cyprus and Greece additionally has targeted on the plight of migrants as Europe hardens its border management insurance policies. On Sunday he’s returning to the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos, which he visited 5 years in the past to fulfill with migrants at a detention camp.

In Athens, Francis can also be met with Archbishop Ieronymos, the top of Greece’s Orthodox Church.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II grew to become the primary Catholic chief to go to Greece in additional than 1,200 years and he used the event to beg forgiveness for the sins “by motion or omission” of Catholics towards Orthodox over the centuries. Francis’ go to 20 years later sought to additional mend Catholic-Orthodox ties, nonetheless wounded by the Nice Schism that divided Christianity.

Ieronymos advised Francis on Saturday that he shared the pope’s imaginative and prescient to forge robust ties to face international challenges just like the migration disaster and local weather change.

“If the world group, the leaders of highly effective states, and worldwide organizations don’t take daring choices, the ever-threatening presence of weak refugee girls and youngsters will proceed to develop globally,” Ieronymos warned.

An aged Orthodox priest heckled Francis as he arrived at Ieronymos’ residence, shouting: “Pope you’re a heretic!” earlier than police hustled him away.

Francis has accelerated inter-faith initiatives, as the 2 church buildings try and shift from centuries of competitors and distrust towards collaboration. Orthodox church buildings are additionally searching for alliances amid a deepening dispute over the independence of the Ukrainian church, which was traditionally ruled by the Russian Orthodox Church.

“I feel the presence of the pope in Greece and Cyprus indicators a return to the traditional relationship that we should always have … in order that we will transfer towards what’s most essential of all: the unity of the Christian world,” Ioannis Panagiotopoulos, an affiliate professor of divinity and church historical past at Athens College, advised The Related Press.

The pope’s go to ends Monday.


Theodora Tongas in Athens contributed. ——— Comply with Winfield at and Gatopoulos at

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