ANDREA TORNIELLI, VATICAN CITY, In Vatican Insider, 23/01/2017
In an interview with Spanish daily El País, the Pope spoke about populism and mentioned the example of Germany in 1933: “The risk in times of crisis is that we look for a saviour who gives us back our identity and lets defend ourselves with walls”
(Note: Ever since the installation of Donald Trump as the 45th president of US we are deluged with reports and opinions and judgements on what he has said, and will do. But Pope Francis who gave a long interview to a Spanish paper refused to make any judgement on him: “We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion. But being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise”, he said.
“You shall know them by their fruits”, is what the gospel warning and it takes time for a tree to produce fruits. It is the same with people who take up responsibility to rule a country. The world is going through a crisis situation both in US and Europe and it is natural people look for a saviour and jump on the first who offers himself to take up the challenge to lead a nation and in all honesty and sincerity, as it happened in the case of Hitler in Germany, points out the Pope.
And what is most important to note, in more than one place in the interview he refers to himself as “Sinner" I am not a saint. I am not making any revolution. I am just trying to push the Gospel forward. In an imperfect way, because I make my blunders from time to time.” Recall the first interview he gave to a Jesuit magazine immediately after becoming the Pope. Asked how he would describe himself, he said: “I am a sinner” – never said by any pope before him — even when everyone addresses him: “Your Holiness”, which in fact “is the height of blasphemy a human can say”. I myself had written this referring to former popes, before the advent of this pope, not after. And therefore he is famously described as “the miracle of humility in an era of Vanity.”
He sent his good wishes, blessings and prayers to Trump, while expressing his concern for the migrants and refugees. Revolutions are done by saints and saints are the humblest of humans who never boast of anything about themselves but consider themselves as the lowly placed. Let the words and actions of Francis have an impact on the New President. james kottoor, editor).
VATICAN CITY: No word of caution, no abstract positive or negative opinions on Donald Trump. Just a reminder about the importance of being realistic and concrete, the kind of approach every Christian should have: let’s see what he does. In a lengthy interview with Spanish daily newspaper El País on new President of the United States, published on Sunday 22 January, Pope Francis echoed what the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, had said the day after the presidential election.
Francis was interviewed by Pablo Ordaz and Antonio Caño at St. Martha’s House on 20 January, just as Trump was about to become the 45th president of the United States, swearing an oath upon the Bible. Francis spoke at length about populism, migrants, Church reforms and a possible visit to China and also answered a question on the future of the conclave.
Being realistic about Trump
“We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion. But being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise. It would be like prophets predicting calamities or windfalls that will not be either. We will see. We will see what he does and will judge.
Always on the specific. Christianity, either is specific or it is not Christianity. We need specifics. And from the specific we can draw consequences. We lose sense of the concrete. The other day, a thinker was telling me that this world is so upside down that it needs a fixed point. And those fixed points stem from the concrete. What did you do, what did you decide, how do you move. That is why I prefer to wait and see.”
Populism and Germany in 1933
The question put to the Pope was this: “Both in Europe and in America, the repercussions of the crisis that never ends, the growing inequalities, the absence of strong leadership are giving way to political groups that reflect on the citizens' malaise. Some of them —the so-called anti-system or populists— capitalize on the fears in face of an uncertain future in order to form a message full of xenophobia and hatred towards the foreigner…”
The Pope’s response was this: “Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933. After [Paul von] Hindenburg, after the crisis of 1930, 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". And all Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people. That is the risk.
In times of crisis, we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me. Let's look for a saviour who gives us back our identity and lets defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other peoples that may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing. That is why I always try to say: talk among yourselves, talk to one another. But the case of Germany in 1933 is typical, 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.
Where there is no conversation… Can borders be controlled? Yes, each country has the right to control its borders, who comes and who goes, and those countries at risk —from terrorism or such things— have even more the right to control them more, but no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbours.”
Church and the responses to the influx of immigrants
Take Africa: Africa is the symbol of exploitation. Even when giving their independence, in some countries, they are independent and the owners of their land on the surface, but not underground. So they are always used and abused. The reception policy has several phases. There is an emergency reception: you have to welcome them, because otherwise they drown. Italy and Greece have led by example. Even now, Italy, with all the problems caused by the earthquake and all that, still cares for them. They welcome them.”
“I am not making any revolution”
“I try — I don't know if I’ll succeed — to do what the Gospel says. I am a sinner and not always successful, but that is what I try to do. The history of the Church has not been driven by theologians, or priests, or nuns, or bishops… Maybe in part, but the true heroes of the Church are the saints. That is, those men and women that devoted their lives to make the Gospel a reality. Those are the ones that have saved us: the saints. We sometimes think that a saint is a nun that looks up to the heaven and rolls her eyes. The saints are the specific examples of the Gospel in daily life! And the theology that you learn from a saint's life is immense. There is no doubt that the theologians and the pastors are necessary. They are part of the Church. But we must come back to that: the Gospel. And who are the best messengers of the Gospel? The saints. You used the word "revolution". That is a revolution! I am not a saint. I am not making any revolution. I am just trying to push the Gospel forward. In an imperfect way, because I make my blunders from time to time.”