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Pope calls out ‘evil populism’

Pope Francis echoed chancellor Angela Merkel in an interview with a German newspaper in which he raged about "the dangers of rising populism" in western democracies.

Published: March 10, 2017, 9:55 am

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    In a similar thinly veiled attempt to smear president Donald Trump and rising patriotic parties, the pope told Die Zeit on Thursday “populism is evil and ends badly as the past century showed”.

    In January Merkel said populism was not the answer to the world’s challenges of globalisation and digitalisation. “”We won’t get anywhere by trying to solve problems with polarisation and populism,” Merkel said in a speech to Catholic church leaders in Wuerzburg in response to Donald Trump’s critcism of her policy.

    Defending her refugee policy as an act of moral obligation by a “state of laws”, Merkel said that Europeans must stand by open borders. Ironically Merkel’s refugee policy stands in stark violation of the German constitution.

    Unrestricted immigration contravenes the Constitution, the justice minister of Bavaria, Winfried Bausback, said after the Bavarian government presented results of research carried out by former Federal Constitutional Court of judge, Udo Di Fabio.

    Catholics are divided not only politically but also on church matters. In April last year, Pope Francis released Amoris Laetitia, a 200-page document in response to a synod of the world’s bishops that had rejected allowing irregular marriages to receive communion in the Catholic church.

    This leaves the Pope in deadlock, and puts the Vatican in the worst possible situation: a plot against the Pope by traditionalists that is an open secret, but which has little chance of success. Thus it is not an immediate political issue that threatens the church as the Pope seems to indicate once again in his latest interview, but a much deeper canonical problem.

    At the end of this month, the University of Paris-Sud is in fact hosting a conference on “the canonical problem of the deposition of heretical popes”. Two of the professors giving papers have asked the Pope to rule against “heretical” misunderstandings of Amoris Laetitia — which he refuses to do.

    There are no legal structures for this situation, since, theoretically, the Pope has the fulness of power in the Church. But this fulness obviously exists only in theological and canonical theory. In practice, papal power is considerably limited by the willingness of his cardinals and the Vatican bureaucracy to work with him.

    Local tension between the liberal and conservative strands of the faith are intensifying, and is being made worse by the Pope himself as many priests have absolutely no intention of giving communion to couples in irregular marriages. So the couples are left wondering who is right: their priest or their Pope? The conditions for a schism are being amplified the pontiff’s clear political motives.

    Francis has forcefully denounced “populism” this time, but this is not the first time Pope Francis has blasted nationalists. He has consistently set himself in opposition to what he has characterised as an anti-immigrant attitude and nationalist sentiment, directing his criticism toward not only Europe but America as well.

    But he seems to conflate even moderate, reasonable immigration policies with his attacks on “anti-immigrant populism”. In January he condemned the use of walls “of any kind”, alluding to Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico to keep foreigners out, and warned against the “dark” potential of “populism”, speaking from behind the walls of the Vatican where he resides.

    When asked about his perspective on the rise of nationalism, Francis played the Nazi card instead: “Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933.”

    “Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says: ‘I can, I can,” he added. “And all Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.”

    During the 2016 campaign, the Pope and Trump feuded publicly when Francis questioned the authenticity of Trump’s faith because of his desire to clamp down on illegal immigration.

    “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,” said Pope Francis. “As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

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