The Archbishop of Bologna, Matteo Zuppi, has warned of the dangers of populism in the midst of the political crisis in Italy prompted by the electoral push of ultranationalist Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

Driving the news

Populism “gives untruthful identitarian answers” to the problems of our time, Zuppi said in an interview Friday to the Corriere di Bologna newspaper.

“Populism is to respond incorrectly to real problems: belonging and identity are important, love for one’s homeland also. But it is not the right answer. The point is how to bring together belonging and globalisation”, the archbishop explained.

Echoing a point recently made by Pope Francis, Zuppi also observed that “all of the -isms are dangerous”.

The prelate said that “isms” – from populism to nationalism – are “semantic… shortcuts” always employed in self-defence.

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Go deeper

Italy was plunged into crisis August 8 when Salvini withdrew his League party from a coalition government with the Five-Star movement, seeking early elections to make the most of high poll numbers.

But with respect to this crisis – and apart from warnings about populism and nationalism – Zuppi insisted that “the Church does not take sides”.

The Church “is never biased, even if it sometimes presented that way”, the archbishop explained.

Rather, “the Church defends life and the person”, “humanism and humanity”, according to Zuppi.

“We will also be on the side of life, from beginning to end. There are no ifs or buts on these issues, as is sometimes claimed”, the archbishop clarified.

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For the record

On one of the most important pro-life issues in Italy and Europe today – that of migration – Zuppi was clear.

“One cannot continue to talk of [a migration] emergency when it is an epochal and continuous phenomenon”, the archbishop said.

To continue to deny the need to welcome migrants in Europe and in other places “means being left behind and being overwhelmed by history”, Zuppi continued, calling on politicians and citizens to overcome “the temptation of closing off”.

“If individual countries close off and pass the buck it’s obvious that we’re not going to get anywhere”, the archbishop warned.

“We need more Europe, a functioning European bureaucracy, but also a Union that defends its constituent values, that’s not just a cash machine for some”, Zuppi added.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.