Pope Francis spoke out Sunday about his fears of nuclear warfare, and about the dangers of building walls between nations, comparing today’s populist movements to Nazi Germany.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with El Pais during Donald Trump’s inauguration activities, he said he will not form an opinion on the new president before seeing what actions he takes in office.
“I think that we must wait and see. I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion.”
When asked what his biggest fears are for the world today, he said, “In the world, there is war. We have a World War III in little bits. Lately there is talk of a possible nuclear war as if it were a card game: they are playing cards. That is my biggest concern. I am worried about the economic inequalities in the world: the fact that a small group of humans has over 80 percent of the world’s wealth, with all its implications for the liquid economy, which at its center has money as a god, instead of the human being.”
Pope Francis addressed the rising concerns of populist movements in Europe, such as in Austria, Italy and Switzerland, especially after Trump’s victory. Drawing comparisons to Nazi Germany, the pope called on people to avoid putting their hopes in a savior who promises to shape a national identity.
“Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933,” he said. “Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people. That is the risk. In times of crisis, we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me.
“Let’s look for a savior who gives us back our identity and let’s defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other peoples that may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing,” continued the pontiff. “That is why I always try to say: talk among yourselves, talk to one another.”
“But the case of Germany in 1933 is typical, a people that was immersed in a crisis, that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened,” he added. “No country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbors.”
Pope Francis previously condemned Trump’s proposed Mexican border wall back in November. He said that while he couldn’t comment on who to vote for in American politics, “A person who only thinks about building walls wherever they may be, and does not focus on building bridges, is not a Christian. This is not the Gospel.”
Trump criticized the Pope at the time, calling him a pawn of the Mexican government, saying, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”
As is customary for incoming presidents, Pope Francis sent the new president a telegram Friday on the occasion of his inauguration, calling on him to care for the poor, the outcast and less fortunate, in the spirit of Lazarus.
“At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding farsighted and united political responses,” he wrote to Trump. “I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide.”