Monday

18th Feb 2019

Pope warns populism could lead to 'saviours' like Hitler

  • Pope Francis said citizens are looking for leaders to restore their identity (Photo: European Parliament)

Pope Francis has warned that the rise of populism in Europe could pave the way for the election of supposed "saviours" like Adolf Hitler.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais published on Sunday (22 January) the pontiff drew parallels between 1930s Germany and today's Europe.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Crises provoke fear, alarm," the pope said, citing the example of Germany in 1933.

He said Germany felt it had lost its identity and wanted a leader who could restore it. "And there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says 'I can, I can.'"

The pope warned that democracy could destroy itself as people look for a "saviour" in times of crisis.

"Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people. That is the risk," he said.

He noted that Germans were looking for someone who could defend their identity "with walls, barbed-wire" from others. He said that the case was "typical" and that Hitler eventually gave Germans a "distorted identity and we know what happened".

He said countries have the right to defend their borders, and know who crosses them, but he urged dialogue instead of building walls.

"That is why I always try to say: talk among yourselves, talk to one another," he said, adding that "no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbours".

Francis gave the interview a day before a meeting in Koblenz of European far-right parties, where leaders like France's Marine Le Pen, the Netherlands' Geert Wilders and Germany's Frauke Petry pledged that 2017 will be a year of nationalism.

Ahead of national elections this years, their parties, the National Front, the Party of Freedom and the Alternative for Germany, all promise tough immigration laws, stricter border control and advocate for stronger nation states at the cost of European integration.

But the pope did not want to pass judgement on the new US president Donald Trump.

"We must wait and see. I don't like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion," he said, adding that "being afraid or rejoicing beforehand ... is quite unwise".

In a message released by the Vatican, Francis urged Trump upon his inauguration to take care of the poor and the outcast.

He added he hoped Trump's decisions would be guided by "the rich spiritual and ethical values" that have shaped America.

Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections

Far-right leaders Le Pen, Wilders, Petry and others gathered in Koblenz in the hope of gaining political momentum ahead of national elections this year. The event was met with thousands of protestors.

Trump pledges US-first foreign policy

Economic protectionism and war on Islamist terrorism will form the heart of US foreign policy, Trump has said. He did not rubbish Nato, but indicated interest in a new Russia alliance.

Pope Francis to EU: Migrants are not criminals

In a speech strongly criticising European leaders, pope Francis urged the EU to welcome migrants and revamp its economic policies to make them fairer toward young people.

Interview

'Populism is not a disease'

Populism is something to be understood, says Paolo Graziano, professor of political science at the University of Padua.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us