Pope Francis isn't taking the Trump party line.
Just days before the election, he cautioned against “social walls” and “false prophets” fueling fear and intolerance in politics. “No tyranny finds support without tapping into our fears,” Francis said. “This is key. Hence, all tyranny is terrorist.”
On the day of the inauguration, Francis warned against the rise of populist leaders like Adolf Hitler. “Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933,” the pope said. “A people that was immersed in a crisis, that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened.”
In the past couple of weeks, he has stood with indigenous people, arguing that they have a “right to prior and informed consent” about what happens to their land and that their position “should always prevail.” It seemed to read like a rallying cry for supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. He has suggested that leaders should create “bridges,” not walls, and shouldn’t ask others to pay for them. In a fairly pointed prayer intention, he criticized people who “throw up skyscrapers” and “strike big real estate deals” but ignore those on society's margins.
And in a new letter, Francis offered his full-throated support to activists and organizers fighting for social justice. He also reaffirmed their choice to fight tyranny amid a “gutting of democracies.”
“As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment,” he said, as reported by the Guardian. “It is a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”
The draft was read this week at the opening of the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, Calif. The pope did not reference President Trump directly, but parts of his message seemed tailor-made for this particular moment. “The direction taken beyond this historic turning point — the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved — will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements,” Francis said.
He also condemned the growth of populist and xenophobic movements, calling them a “grave danger for humanity.” And he criticized leaders who rely on “fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills on to a ‘non-neighbor.’ ”
None of these statements are particularly shocking. But what's notable is the frequency with which the pope is speaking out. Francis has become one of the world's staunchest defenders of immigrants, Muslims and liberal democracy itself.