ROME — Pope Francis arrived on Saturday in Athens, Greece, where he launched an impassioned appeal for multilateralism, migrant reception, and combating climate change.
Today, “we are witnessing a retreat from democracy,” the pope told Greek political leaders. “Democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all; consequently, it demands hard work and patience. It is complex, whereas authoritarianism is peremptory and populism’s easy answers appear attractive.”
Universal participation should motivate our actions on a variety of fronts, the pontiff stated, underscoring “the climate, the pandemic, the common market and, above all, the widespread forms of poverty” as issues above partisanship.
The international community needs this cooperation “in order to open up paths of peace through a multilateralism that will not end up being stifled by excessive nationalistic demands,” he declared.
“Politics needs this, in order to put common needs ahead of private interests,” he added.
Along with multilateralism, the pope placed special emphasis on a universal call to combat climate change, symbolized by the olive tree.
“It is sad to see how, in recent years, many age-old olive trees have been burned, consumed by fires often caused by adverse weather conditions provoked in turn by climate changes,” Francis said. “Against the scarred landscape of this marvelous country, the olive tree can symbolize the determination to tackle the climate crisis and its devastation.”
“It is my hope, in this regard, that the commitments assumed in the fight against climate changes may be more fully shared and seriously implemented, rather than remaining a mere façade,” he added. “May words be followed by deeds, lest children once more have to pay for the hypocrisy of their fathers.”
He also returned to the topic of immigration, condemning Europe’s self-interest in not welcoming more migrants.
Greece “has seen on some of its islands the arrival of numbers of our migrant brothers and sisters greater than the number of their native inhabitants; this has heightened the difficulties still felt in the aftermath of the economic crisis,” he said.
“Yet Europe also continues to temporize: the European Community, prey to forms of nationalistic self-interest, rather than being an engine of solidarity, appears at times blocked and uncoordinated,” he declared.
“I would like to encourage once again a global, communitarian vision with regard to the issue of migration, and to urge that attention be paid to those in greatest need, so that, in proportion to each country’s means, they will be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated,” he said.
“From this city, from this cradle of civilization, may there ever continue to resound a message that lifts our gaze both on high and towards others,” Francis concluded, “that democracy may be the response to the siren songs of authoritarianism; and that individualism and indifference may be overcome by concern for others, for the poor and for creation.”