Pope Francis Calls for ‘Antidote’ to Populism

Pope Francis waves from the Popemobile on his way to attend the Via Crucis on Copacabana Beach during World Youth Day celebrations on July 26, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 1.5 million pilgrims are expected to join the pontiff for his visit to the Catholic Church's World …
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis has further dug in his heels as the anti-populist pope, writing in the forward to a new book that organized citizens in action are the “antidote to populism.”

In his forward to The Eruption of Popular Movements: The Rerum Novarum of Our Time, the pope waxes poetic, praising so-called “popular movements” as “a great social alternative, a profound cry, a sign of contradiction, a hope that ‘everything can change.’”

Populism, on the other hand, the pontiff likens to “show-politics,” adding that in today’s political climate “fear is the means of manipulation of civilizations, the creative agent of xenophobias and racism, a terror sown in the peripheries of the world.”

Francis has never attempted to conceal his scorn for populist parties, insisting the new populist wave is born of “egotism.” On that occasion, he also referred to an “antidote” to populism, speaking of solidarity, however, rather than popular movements.

Solidarity is “the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism,” Pope Francis told European heads of state in March 2017.

Addressing the leaders assembled in Rome for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome that marked the beginning of the European Economic Community (EEC), the Pope pushed for a stronger, consolidated Europe against the rising tide of populist movements.

The pontiff contrasted solidarity, which draw us “closer to our neighbors,” with populism, which is “the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and ‘looking beyond’ their own narrow vision.”

And earlier this month, the pope said that in his mind, populism is basically the same thing as sovereignism, which “always ends badly” and “leads to war.”

“It is one thing is for people to express themselves, and another is to impose a populist attitude on the people,” he said. “The people are sovereign (they have their way of thinking, feeling, evaluating, and expressing themselves), while populist movements lead to forms of sovereignism. That suffix, ‘ism’, is never good.”

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