Pope Francis criticizes populist impulses as synonymous with 'throwaway culture’

Just before entering the Generali Convention Center in the northern Italian city of Trieste, Pope Francis rose from his wheelchair. The pope, who will turn 88 in December, walked with his cane a few meters apart from the white chair that had been set up for him on the edge of the stage. A way to reinforce the speech he was about to deliver a few minutes later?

Addressing 1,200 participants in the 50th Social Week of Italian Catholics on July 7, Francis expressed a deep concern for democracy – the theme of the conference he was invited to attend. „It is clear that democracy is not in good health in today’s world,” Pope Francis said. Because „human well-being is at stake,” he said. This warning went beyond the „Italian context”. Outside the peninsula, concerns abound, a Vatican source said the cross A few days before the papal trip to Trieste, he cited legislative elections organized in France on the same day, as well as the ongoing US election campaign between the legally condemned Donald Trump and the aging Joe Biden.

Sitting under two giant screens, showing two hearts made up of photographs of anonymous people, with the words „at the heart of democracy”, the Pope linked the crisis to all „social exclusion”. „Every time someone is marginalized, the whole social body suffers,” Francis said. He again condemned the „throwaway culture” that plagues today’s societies. „The throwaway culture creates a city that has no place for the poor, the unborn, the weak, the sick, children, women and youth,” he said.

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Populism and the Pied Piper

In response, Francis said that „ideological and populist experiments” are not a solution. “Ideologies are attractive. Some compare them to the Pied Piper of Hamel. They seduce you, but they lead you to deny yourself,” the Pope said. It refers to a 14th-century German fairy tale in which a piper promises to rid a town of its rat infestation. But to the sound of his musical instrument, the village children follow him and are lost forever.

Continuing his address to Community Week participants, Francis praised political leaders who support „birth rates, jobs, schools, education services, accessible housing, mobility for all and the integration of immigrants.” Political leaders should never lose touch with the people they govern. “A politician who does not marry the people is a thera. He lacks the essentials,” the Pope said. This statement is a variation on one of his favorite expressions, commonly applied to bishops, who are always encouraged to „know the smell of their sheep.” “A politician can be like a shepherd who goes before the people, among them and behind them. In front of people to mark a little path; among the people, to feel them; Behind them to help the wanderers,” the Pope explained.

'Why are we indifferent and indifferent to the injustices of the world?’

Pope Francis praised the political involvement of Catholics in politics, urging them not to limit their faith to the „private” sphere. „This means not so much demanding to be heard, but above all having the courage to present proposals for justice and peace in public debate,” he said. „We need to say something, but not with the goal of protecting privilege. We need to be a voice of condemnation and solutions in a society that often has no voice and many don’t have a voice.” Departing from his speech, he repeated, „So much, so much…”.

He recalled the presence of the voiceless in his homily, delivered two hours later at the Mass celebrated in Piazza Unita d’Italia in Trieste: “Sometimes we are needlessly scandalized by many small things, and it is better to ask ourselves instead. : Why are we not scandalized by rampant evil, degraded lives, labor issues, migrant suffering? Why are we apathetic and indifferent to the injustices of the world? Why do we not bear in mind the plight of the prisoners, whose cries of agony rise even from this city of Trieste? These are some of the issues addressed by the Pope to all the democracies of the world from the port city on the northern Adriatic.

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