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Pope Francis warns of 'populists' and ailing democracy

July 7, 2024

The leader of the Catholic Church is concerned about the worldwide state of democracy. Francis is wary of "ideological temptations and populists" as the far-right makes gains in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Pope Francis holds a mass in the Italian city of Trieste on July 7, 2024
Pope Francis presided over a mass in Trieste during his visit to the city Image: Vatican Media/Independent Photo Agency Int./IMAGO

Pope Francis lamented the state of democracy around the world on Sunday during a visit to the northeastern Italian city of Trieste.

Global democracy 'is not in good health' 

"Democracy is not in good health in the world today," Francis said during a Catholic event that focuses on social issues.  

Speaking to a group of around 1,200 people, he urged citizens to take part in voting and other forms of democracy. 

"Democracy demands that conditions are created so that everyone can express themselves," Francis maintained. 

"We cannot be satisfied with a private faith," the 87-year-old said. "This means having the courage to make proposals for justice and peace in public debates."     

Be wary of 'ideological temptations and populists'

Francis cautioned against "ideological temptations and populists," without mentioning any country in particular.  

"Ideologies are seductive. Some people compare them to the Pied Piper of Hamelin: they seduce but lead you to deny yourself," Francis said, alluding to a German children's legend. The phrase "pied piper" is commonly used to mean someone who gains popularity through false promises.    

His remarks come on the same day as French parliamentary elections where the far-right is expected to make big gains. The far-right surged in European elections last month, with conservative hardliners also winning big in Dutch elections this past November. 

Pope Francis visits Trieste in Italy on July 7, 2024
Francis' visits around Italy are a test for his health and stamina Image: Vatican Media/Independent Photo Agency Int./IMAGO

During his visit to Trieste, the Argentine Jesuit of Italian heritage met with migrants and people with disabilities. 

Francis has largely stayed in Italy in recent months amid health problems, having visited Venice in April and Verona in May.

He is, however, expected to jet off on a nearly two week Asia tour in September, with stops in Indonesia, Singapore, and the islands of Papua New Guinea and East Timor on the agenda. It will be the longest foreign journey of his tenure as pope.    

wd/rm (AFP, dpa)