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Amidst Plummeting Popularity, France’s Macron Gets Photo Op with Pope Francis

Pope Francis with Emmanuel Macron
ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Pope Francis in the Vatican Tuesday, after Sunday polls showed him with his lowest popularity rating since taking office.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the globalist French president’s popularity “has hit a new low,” dropping by one percentage point in June to 40 percent. Just last February, Mr. Macron made headlines when his popularity rating fell below 50 percent for the first time, and it has continued falling ever since.

On Tuesday morning, the 40-year-old Macron had his first meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican and the two men spoke for 57 minutes, the longest meeting yet between Francis and a head of state.

According to the Vatican communiqué on the meeting, discussions between the two leaders were “cordial,” highlighting the “good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and France” as well as “the contribution of religions to the promotion of the common good of the country.”

During the course of the hour-long meeting, the two men also spoke of “global issues of shared interest,” which included “the protection of the environment, migration, and multilateral commitment to conflict prevention and resolution, especially in relation to disarmament.”

Regarding immigration, Pope Francis has an ally in Mr. Macron, who has been sharply critical of efforts to stem the tide of mass migration into Europe.

Last week, Macron lashed out at Italy’s new populist government, warning that Euroscepticism is spreading “like leprosy” throughout the continent.

“I’m saying to you in the gravest terms: Many hate [the European Union], but they have hated it for a long time, and now you see them rise, like leprosy, all around Europe, in countries where we thought that they would never reappear,” he said.

The leader of Italy’s Five-Star Movement (M5S), Luigi Di Maio, was quick to strike back at Macron: “The real leprosy is the hypocrisy of someone who pushes back immigrants at Ventimiglia [on the Italian-French border] and then wants to preach to us.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Macron criticized Italy’s decision to refuse debarkation to a migrant-laden NGO vessel Aquarius as “sickening,” while scolding Italy for its alleged “cynicism and irresponsibility” in dealing with migrants.

In his harsh reproach, Macron made no mention of his own country’s decision to close its southern borders with Italy to migrants, leaving Italy alone to deal with the roughly 640,000 migrants who have poured into the country since 2013.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte jumped on this point, calling out Macron’s France as a “hypocritical country,” while insisting that Italy would not accept lessons from them.

Pope Francis has been pushing for a “change in mindset” regarding international migration, insisting in a recent message that migrants are not a threat to society but, rather, an enrichment to their host nations.

Like Mr. Macron, the pope has also contended in a recent interview that the populist response to immigration will not resolve Europe’s crisis.

Asked what he thought the solution is to the immigration crisis that seems to be causing Europe to crumble, Francis eliminated populism as an answer.

“Populism is not the solution,” Francis said emphatically, adding that Europe would disappear without migrants because no one is having children.

“Let’s look at history,” he said. “Europe was made by immigrants. Let’s look at the current situation. In Europe there is a great demographic winter. It will become empty.”

The pope praised the efforts of Italy and Greece as well as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan for their “courage and generosity” in welcoming migrants.

“The current story is that there are people who come asking for help. I believe that you should not reject the people who arrive,” he said. “You have to welcome, assist, take care of, and accompany them, and then see where to put them, but throughout all Europe.”

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