Pope Francis warned Saturday that democracy in Europe and elsewhere is being threatened by populist politicians, who appeal to disgruntled citizens with easy solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
The pope’s remarks were made during a visit to Athens, Greece, widely viewed as the birthplace of democracy, the second and last stop on a Mediterranean trip aimed at calling attention to the plight of migrants and refugees.
“We cannot avoid noting with concern how today, and not only in Europe, we are witnessing a retreat from democracy,” Francis said in a speech at the presidential palace.
Francis did not name countries or world leaders, but he cautioned people to be wary of politicians with “an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises.”
The pope said the birth of democracy thousands of years ago evolved into a “great house of democratic peoples” in the European Union, “and the dream of peace and fraternity that it represents for so many peoples.”
He said the dream is being further jeopardized by financial and other hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic, potentially fueling nationalist sentiments and making authoritarianism seem “compelling and populism’s easy answers appear attractive.”
“The remedy is not to be found in an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises…but in good politics,” Francis declared.
The pope said only multilateralism can effectively tackle poverty, the environment and other crises that confront the global community.
“Politics needs this, in order to put common needs ahead of private interests,” he said.
Some information in this report also came from The Associated Press and Reuters.