Something has gone horribly wrong if the Pope feels the need to make a statement to the world to beware of an incoming president.
Yet Saturday, that’s exactly what Pope Francis did. In a statement made to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, the Pope highlights the concerns he harbors about Donald Trump.
The reporter asked Francis “what he makes” of Donald Trump being sworn into office, citing that the whole world feels tense about it. He responds “…that we must wait and see. I don’t like to get ahead of myself, nor to judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does.”
The reporter then asked the Pope about the rise of populism and how he feels about it. They cite how fear and growing inequalities have led to the rise of leaders which are “so-called anti-system.” Claiming “Trump’s case is the most noteworthy,” that “[t]hey capitalize on the fears of an uncertain future in order to form a message full of xenophobia and hatred towards foreigners.”
The Pope responds without acknowledging Trump specifically, but going straight into a conversation about Hitler and 1930s Nazi Germany. He claims the most obvious example of populism in Europe was the rise of Hitler. He claims:
‘Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, it need a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says: “I can, I can.” And Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn’t steal power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people. That is the risk. In times of crisis we lack judgement…’
Well, if America and the world weren’t afraid before, we certainly are now. Much of the context behind the election of Donald Trump certainly echo the problems facing Germany at the time they elected Hitler. It is true that in many ways Donald Trump claims to be a populist, and through the selection of his staff he has already demonstrated that it was only an election ploy.
The Pope went on to call out men who claim to be a savior, and who use tactics which create barrios among people:
‘A savior who [tries to] give us back our identity [by] let[ting] us defend ourselves with walls…is a very serious thing.’
Certainly, Trump’s vilification of immigrants and his steadfast commitment to building a wall along the U.S. to Mexico border is divisive. It speaks to Trump’s election tactic of inciting fear and that only he was able to protect Americans from the loss of their identity. The Pope, in this interview, condemns this type of methodology because he condemns the isolation and separation of people “from their neighbours.”
The rise of a man who promises to restore the country’s “greatness” with division and exclusivity with almost nothing but a charismatic personality, is congruent in the two cases.
The fact that the Pope felt it prudent to express his thoughts about populism and Trump by highlighting those similarities, however, is extremely ominous and concerning.
Feature Image via Getty Images/Franco Origlia.