Pope Warns of Threats From Populism, Authoritarianism

In Greece, Francis defends democracy against 'easy answers'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 4, 2021 1:40 PM CST
Pope Warns of Threats From Populism, Authoritarianism
Pope Francis is greeted by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Saturday at Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens.   (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

(Newser) – Pope Francis warned Saturday that the "easy answers" of populism and authoritarianism are threatening democracy in Europe and called for fresh dedication to promoting the common good. Arriving in Greece, the birthplace of democracy, Francis used a speech to Greek political and cultural leaders to warn Europe at large about the threats facing the continent, the AP reports. He said only robust multilateralism can address the pressing issues of the day, including protecting the environment and fighting the pandemic and poverty. "Politics needs this, in order to put common needs ahead of private interests," Francis said.

"Yet we cannot avoid noting with concern how today, and not only in Europe, we are witnessing a retreat from democracy," he said. The pope, who lived through Argentina's populist Peronist era as well as its military dictatorship, didn't name specific countries or leaders. The EU is locked in a feud with members Poland and Hungary over rule-of-law issues, with Warsaw insisting that Polish law takes precedence over EU policies and regulations. Francis recalled that it was in Greece, according to Aristotle, that man became conscious of being a political animal and a member of a community of citizens.

"Here, democracy was born," Francis told Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. "That cradle, thousands of years later, was to become a house, a great house of democratic peoples. I am speaking of the European Union and the dream of peace and fraternity that it represents for so many peoples." Economic upheaval and other disruptions of the pandemic can breed nationalist sentiments and make authoritarianism seem "compelling and populism's easy answers appear attractive," Francis said. "The remedy is not to be found in an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises ... but in good politics." (The US made a list of fading democracies.)

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