Populist Press, Populist Threats In The Birthplace Of Democracy: Europe’s democracy is in danger because of the “easy answers” of populism and authoritarianism, Pope Francis has warned.
Populism and authoritarianism are endangering democracy in Europe, Pope Francis warned on Saturday, and he called for renewed commitment to the common good rather than narrow, nationalist interests.
Populist Press, Populist Threats In The Birthplace Of Democracy
Greek Political & Cultural Leaders
Upon arrival in Greece, the birthplace of democracy, Francis addressed Greek political and cultural leaders, warning them of the dangers facing Europe. He said only strong multilateralism can address today’s pressing issues, from environmental protection to pandemic and poverty.
Politics requires it to priorities public needs over private interests. “Yet we cannot help but be concerned about the erosion of democracy today, not just in Europe.”
Argentina’s Populist Peronist Era And Military Dictatorship
Francis, who lived through Argentina’s populist Peronist era and military dictatorship, has repeatedly warned against authoritarianism and populism’s threat to the EU and democracy.
He didn’t mention any specific countries or leaders. But the EU is at odds with Poland and Hungary over rule-of-law issues, with Warsaw insisting Polish law supersedes EU policies and regulations.
Just as Francis warned of the populist threat to Europe, right-wing populist leaders met in Warsaw and pledged to work together to defend their sovereignty at the European Parliament.
Outside the bloc, populist leaders in Brazil and the former Trump administration pushed nationalist environmental policies at odds with Francis’ call to protect “our common home.”
Fellow Citizens In Greece
Aristotle claimed that man became aware of being a “political animal” and a member of a community of fellow citizens in Greece.
So said Pope Francis to Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. “That cradle would later become a great house of democratic peoples. So many peoples dream of peace and fraternity when they think of the European Union.”
Francis warns that the pandemic’s economic upheaval and other disruptions may foster nationalist sentiments and make authoritarianism “appealing and populism’s easy answers” appealing.
“The remedy is not in a flurry of unrealistic promises… but in good politics,” he said.
Necessary Vaccination Campaign
Francis praised governments’ “necessary vaccination campaign” to tame the coronavirus. In response to vaccine sceptics and virus deniers, he cited another Greek doctor-philosopher, Hippocrates. Francis cited the Hippocratic oath to “abstain from whatever is harmful and offensive to others,” particularly the elderly.
The Greek president agreed. “The virus spreads and mutates, aided by our societies’ irrational denial of reality,” Sakellaropoulou said.
Infections and deaths from the pandemic have reached record levels in Greece. Parliament recently approved a vaccine mandate for people over 60.
Archbishop Aldo Giordano
The death of the Vatican’s ambassador to the European Union, Archbishop Aldo Giordano, on Dec. 2 has cast a shadow over Francis’ trip. The Vatican’s EU embassy insisted Giordano got the virus days earlier in Hungary during a bishops’ meeting.
Francis’ trip to Cyprus and Greece also focused on migrants’ plight as Europe tightens border controls. On Sunday, he returns to Lesbos, in the Aegean Sea, to meet with migrants in a detention camp.
In Athens, Francis meets Archbishop Ieronymos, the Greek Orthodox Church’s leader.
Pope John Paul II Pleaded For Forgiveness
While in Greece in 2001, Pope John Paul II pleaded for forgiveness for the centuries of Catholic sins “by action or omission” against Orthodox. Francis’ visit 20 years later sought to heal the Great Schism that divided Christianity.
To address global issues like migration and climate change, Ieronymos told Francis on Saturday he shared his vision.
Ieronymos warned that if the global community, powerful states, and international organisations do not take bold decisions, the threat of vulnerable refugee women and children will grow.
“Pope you are a heretic!” yelled an elderly Orthodox priest as Francis approached Ieronymos’ home. before cops rushed him.
Increasing Number Of Orthodox Churches
Francis has accelerated interfaith initiatives as the two churches seek to overcome centuries of rivalry and distrust. An increasing number of Orthodox churches are seeking alliances, as a growing dispute over Ukrainian independence from the Russian Orthodox Church rages.
“I believe the pope’s visit to Greece and Cyprus signals a return to normalcy.. so we can move toward what is most important: the unity of the Christian world,” said Ioannis Panagiotopoulos, associate professor of divinity and church history at Athens University.