12/06/2021, 19.53
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Pope: democracy can be weakened by populism and 'references' to international powers

In his meeting with journalists, Francis describes the EU document on Christmas “an anachronism" based on "watered down secularism". In his view, every government should say how many migrants it can welcome, and democracy can be weakened by populisms and "references" to international economic and cultural powers. A meeting with Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow is not in the far distant future.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis ended his apostolic visit to Cyprus and Greece today, flying from Athens to Rome where he landed at 1 pm, local time. During the flight, the pontiff spoke with journalists, addressing several issues.

“The EU document on Christmas is an anachronism,” Francis said, based on “watered down secularism”. He also said that governments should say how many migrants they can accommodate, and warned that democracy can be weakened by populism and "references" to international economic and cultural powers.

Speaking about a possible meeting with Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow, the pontiff noted that it could happen in the not-too distant future, and as for the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris, he blamed it on “gossip” over his failure to uphold the Sixth Commandment.

Before leaving the Greek capital, Francis met with two groups of young people. Before, at the nunciature, he spoke to a group of young Syrian Christian refugees, currently hosted at the Armenian Catholic Ordinariate in Athens. The nine refugees wore a T-shirt with words inscribed in Italian: “Jesus, I believe in you. The hand of God has saved us. Thank you, Holy Father, you are the hand of the Lord. Athens, 6 December 2021.”[*]

Francis also met young people at the St Dionysius School of the Ursuline Sisters. He urged them to "go ahead", and not to be destroyed by “busters of dreams and crushers of hope" nor fall into a “virtual world full of appearances” in which one is into social media without being “very social”.

On the plane, the pontiff faced many questions. On the European Union document about the terminology to be used to avoid using the word Christmas, Francis called it “an anachronism. In history many, many dictatorships have tried to do so. Think of Napoleon: from there... Think of the Nazi dictatorship, the communist one... It is fashionable for a  watered-down secularism, distilled water... But this is something that hasn’t worked throughout history.”

On democracy, he said that, “it is a treasure, a treasure of civilisation, and it must be guarded”. Yet, “I see two dangers to democracy today: one is that of populism, which is here and there, and is beginning to show its claws. I am thinking of a great populism of the last century, Nazism, which was a populism that, defending national values, as it said, ended up annihilating democratic life, indeed life itself with the death of the people, becoming a bloody dictatorship.”

“On the other hand, democracy is weakened, [it] enters a path where it slowly [weakens] when national values are sacrificed, are watered down towards, let's say — an ugly word, but I can't find another one — towards an 'empire', a kind of supranational government, and this is something that should make us think.”

“The weakening of democracy is caused by the danger of populism, which is not popularism, and the danger of these references to international economic and cultural powers. That's what comes to mind, but I'm not a political scientist, I'm just saying what I think.”

Speaking about migrants, “I would say this: Every government must say clearly ‘I can receive so many...’ Because rulers know how many migrants they can receive. This is their right. This is true. But migrants must be welcomed, accompanied, promoted, and integrated.”

“If a government cannot take in more than a certain number, it must enter into dialogue with other countries, who take care of others, each one. That is why the European Union is important. Because it can establish harmony among all governments for the distribution of migrants. ".

“It's not easy to welcome migrants, to solve the problem of migrants, but if we don't solve the problem of migrants, we risk making a shipwreck of civilisation, today, in Europe, as things stand, our civilisation.”

Answering a question about abuse, he laid out a principle. “[A]n historical situation should be interpreted with the hermeneutics of that time, not our own. For example, slavery. We say: ‘it is a brutality’. The abuses of 70 or 100 years ago are a brutality, but the way they lived it is not the same as today.

“For example, in the case of abuse in the Church, the attitude was to cover it up. It is an attitude that is unfortunately also used in a large number of families, in the neighbourhoods. We say, ‘No!’ This cover-up is not right. But we must always interpret with the hermeneutics of the time, not with our own.

Turning to the question of the Archbishop of Paris, Francis said, “I ask myself what he did that was so serious that he had to resign. Someone answer me, what did he do? And if we do not know the charge we cannot convict.

“Before answering I will say: Conduct an investigation, OK? Because there is a danger of saying: he was convicted. Who condemned him? Public opinion, gossip... we don't know…if you know, why not say so? Otherwise, I cannot answer. And you will not know, because it was a failing on his part, a failing against the sixth commandment, but not total, of small caresses and massages that he did to the secretary; this is the accusation.

“This is sin but it is not of the most serious sins, because the sins of the flesh are not the most serious. The most serious are those that have more 'angelicality': pride, hatred.”

Finally, “a meeting with Patriarch Kirill is on the not-too-distant horizon; I believe that next week Hilarion will visit me to agree on a possible meeting. The Patriarch has to travel, maybe to Finland, and I am always willing to go to Moscow, to dialogue with a brother.”

To engage in “dialogue with a brother, there are no protocols, an Orthodox brother named Kirill, Chrysostomos, Ieronymos, and when we meet, we don't dance the minuet; we say things to each other's face, but as brothers.

“And it is good to see brothers bickering because they belong to the same mother, Mother Church, but they are a little bit divided, some because of heritage, some because of history that divided them. [. . .] But we must try to go together, work and walk in unity and for unity.”


[*] Gesù io credo in te. La mano del Signore ci ha salvati. Grazie, Santo Padre, tu sei la mano del Signore - Athena 06 dicembre 2021.

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