The populisms that are spreading throughout Europe “are fed by the constant search for contrasts, which do not open the heart, but instead imprison it between walls of suffocating resentment”, the Pope has deplored.

Driving the news

Francis made his criticism of the political emphasis on “the people” over against “the elite” in a message to the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) taking place October 3-6 in the city of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain.

“Significantly, your meeting is held near the tomb of the Apostle Santiago, which since time immemorial has been the destiny of many pilgrims from all over Europe, who put their afflictions, supplications and hopes in the hands of the Apostle”, the Pope told the bishops gathered from 45 countries around the continent.

“It is, therefore, a highly symbolic place to rediscover the great wealth of Europe united in its religious and cultural tradition, but so marked by the many peculiarities that make up that richness”, Francis observed.


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The big picture

Reflecting on the theme of the bishops’ assembly – “Europe, time to wake up? The signs of Hope” – the Pope said there are many reasons for hope in Europe today, even if they’re “hidden and we tend not to notice them”.

We see hope “in the concern of many of our brothers for the needy and those who suffer especially the sick, prisoners, the poor, migrants and refugees; as well as in the commitment in the cultural field, especially in the education of the youngest, who are the future of Europe”, Francis said.

“Faith in the risen Lord has made Christians fearless in charity, and is the greatest antidote to the trends of our time, full of wounds and oppositions”, the Pope affirmed.

That charity is the key, Francis explained, to combatting populisms and demagogy, which both “suffocate” the person.

“Charity opens out and lets breathe. It does not confront people with one another, but sees the needs of each one of us reflected in the “needs of the last”, because we are all a bit destitute, all a bit fragile, all in need of care”, the Pope insisted.

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Go deeper

“Charity towards others encourages us to recognise ourselves as children of one Father, who created us and loves us”, Francis continued.

That love for others means “knowing that faith is not transmitted through proselytism, but through attraction, that is, through testimony”, the Pope said.

Francis put forward three women co-patron saints of Europe – St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – as examples to follow in that regard.

“By undertaking this path of closeness to others, by bowing over the wounds of the lost, defenseless and marginalised, the Church will renew its commitment to the construction of Europe”, Francis affirmed.

The Pope concluded his message with a call “for a new European humanism, capable of dialogue, integration and generation, while valuing what is most precious for the tradition of the continent: the defence of human life and dignity, the promotion of the family and respect for the fundamental rights of the person”.

“Through this commitment, Europe can grow as a family of peoples, a land of peace and hope”, Francis declared.

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For the record

For his part, CCEE President Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco said at a press conference before the Assembly got underway yesterday that European political leaders should in all “humility” closely “examine” their performance on the populism and migrant crises.

“A properly European migration policy is still missing”, Bagnasco denounced, calling on Governments to look “all together” for solutions to the “problems”.

Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela Julián Barrio made the most of the opportunity to call for a new “spiritual Europe”.

“Europe, in my opinion, has not wasted its spiritual heritage, but perhaps it has forgotten it”, Barrio lamented.

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Pope issues plea to “save” Europe from “frightening” populism


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