ROME — Pope Francis urged protesters Sunday to conduct their demonstrations in a peaceful way while calling on governments to listen to legitimate grievances being aired.
In recent weeks, the pontiff told those gathered in the Vatican for his weekly Angelus message, “we are witnessing all over the world — in many place — numerous popular protest demonstrations, which express the growing unease of civil society in the face of particularly critical political and social situations.”
“While I urge demonstrators to present their concerns in a peaceful manner, without giving in to the temptation of aggression and violence, I appeal to all those with public and government responsibilities to listen to the voice of their fellow citizens and to meet their own just aspirations, ensuring full respect for human rights and civil liberties,” Francis said.
“Finally, I invite the ecclesial communities who live in such contexts, under the guidance of their Pastors, to work in favor of dialogue, always in favor of dialogue,” he concluded.
In his address, the pope did not specify what demonstrations he was referring to, but recent events would suggest three types of protests to which he was likely alluding.
In numerous nations around the world, protests against government responses to the coronavirus have been growing, with many expressing their consternation with continued limitations of civil liberties in the name of a health crisis, often under the guise of a prolonged “state of emergency” granting governments exceptional powers.
On Saturday, German police clamped down on anti-coronavirus marches in Hannover and Munich, with official estimates suggesting that some 10,000 people had gathered to protest restrictions in Munich.
A week ago, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Rome to protest a “health dictatorship,” referring to the unusual assumption of power by the executive branch of government.
Messages painted on signs and banners denounced the long-term economic effects of Italy’s lockdowns as well as an alleged “strategy of terror” employed by government-controlled media and ongoing measures such as required mask wearing.
Similar protests have erupted in Australia, France, Spain, Croatia, the United Kingdom, several African nations, and a number of U.S. cities.
Along with anti-lockdown protests, racially themed demonstrations have continued in many cities of the United States, often accompanied by violence, looting, and arson. Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters have joined forces in protesting the police as well as whet they term the “systemic racism” present the country.
While the racially charged protests have occurred primarily in the U.S., especially in Democrat-run cities, there have also been small BLM flare-ups in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Finally, it is also possible that Pope Francis had Hong Kong in mind when calling attention to protesters and the need for their grievances to be heard. Until now, the pope has avoided speaking about the pro-democracy protests, allegedly because he wishes to appease officials of the Chinese Communist Party, with whom the Vatican is in negotiations.
Alluding to the Hong Kong situation under the broader banner of protests generally, the pope may have wished to signal that he is not unaware of what is at stake in Hong Kong.