Pope says democracy ‘not in good health’ as he warns against populists

At an event in northeast Italy, Pope Francis says a ‘crisis of democracy’ is having an impact on several nations around the world.

Pope
Pope Francis presides over a holy mass during a pastoral visit on the occasion of the 50th Social Week of Italian Catholics, at Piazza dell'Unita in Trieste, Italy [Andreas Solaro/AFP]

Pope Francis has decried the state of democracy and warned against “populists” during a short visit to Trieste in northeast Italy.

Speaking at an annual Roman Catholic Church convention on social affairs on Sunday, Francis noted that many people felt excluded from democracy, with the poor and the weak left to fend for themselves.

“It is evident that democracy is not in good health in today’s world,” he said, denouncing polarisation and partisanship.

“Ideologies are seductive. Some people compare them to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. They seduce you, but they lead you to deny yourself,” he said, referring to a fairy tale where a rat catcher uses his magic powers to steal away a town’s children.

He said the “crisis of democracy” afflicted various nations, but did not give any specific examples.

Ahead of last month’s European Parliament elections, Catholic bishops in several countries also warned about the rise of populism and nationalism, with far-right parties already holding the reins to power in Italy, Hungary and the Netherlands.

The pope’s speech came on the day France holds a parliamentary run-off election, with the far-right National Rally (RN) expected to take the biggest share of the vote, a month after populist parties scored gains in European Union elections.

Francis urged people to “move away from polarisations that impoverish” and hit out at “self-referential power”.

“Let us not be deceived by easy solutions. Let us instead be passionate about the common good,” the pope said, highlighting the damage caused by political “corruption and illegality”.

The pope, who himself rules as an absolute monarch in the tiny Vatican state, said it was also important to teach children the importance of democratic values, warning that “indifference is a cancer of democracy”.

“I am concerned about the small number of people who went to vote. Why is it happening?” he asked.

Pope Francis concluded his visit to Trieste with a mass in front of some 8,500 worshippers in the city’s main public square before heading back to the Vatican in the early afternoon.

As is now normal, the 87-year-old pontiff got around the region mainly by wheelchair and appeared in good form.

In September, he is due to fly more than 32,000km (19,900 miles) on a 12-day journey around Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore – the longest of his 11-year papacy.

Source: News Agencies