In his new book “Let Us Dream,” Pope Francis takes aim at populist politicians whose rallies conjure memories of 1930s fascism, fanned by the likes of Adolf Hitler. He also has sharp criticism for the “rigid” conservative Catholics who back them, The Daily Mail  reports.
Francis is too polite to mention Trump by name, but we all know who he’s talking about. And the 150-page book, ghost-written by Francis’ English-language biographer, Austin Ivereigh, is due to be published December 1 and written in the time of crisis as the world continues to deal with a major pandemic and lockdown, it provided Francis with a unique opportunity: To imagine and plan a world that’s just and kind.
It’s no mistake that the pope is focusing on the U.S. here, and specifically at Donald Trump’s administration, which has been one of “America First” policies that persecuted migrants from Muslim countries and took a sledgehammer to multilateral diplomacy.
He doesn’t identify the U.S. or Trump by name, but you’d have to be kind of dim not to figure out who he’s referring to. He singles out countries that have Christian majorities and populist leaders who are trying to defend Christianity from those perceived as enemies.
“Today, listening to some of the populist leaders we now have, I am reminded of the 1930s, when some democracies collapsed into dictatorships seemingly overnight,” he wrote. “We see it happening again now in rallies where populist leaders excite and harangue crowds, channeling their resentments and hatreds against imagined enemies to distract from the real problems.”
He noted fear leads people to fall victim to “such rhetoric.”
“People fall prey to such rhetoric out of fear, not true religious conviction,” he noted. Such “superficially religious people vote for populists to protect their religious identity, unconcerned that fear and hatred of the other cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.”
At one point he turns to the death of George Floyd earlier this year. His death caused by the knee of a white police officer who knelt on his neck spurred massive protests across the country. Mentioning Floyd by name, the pope wrote: “Abuse is a gross violation of human dignity that we cannot allow and which we must continue to struggle against.”
He decries, however, the removal of Confederate statues, and is seemingly concerned that doing so may prove to be a way of forgetting the past. He urges people to open up a dialogue about this instead.
“Amputating history can make us lose our memory, which is one of the few remedies we have against repeating mistakes of the past.”
While he has somewhat of a point here, for too many people, these statues represent atrocities committed in a time long gone. Looking at them must be painful, in a country still riven by racial strife. Removing the statues is one way to heal this pain.
But he is completely correct in calling out populist leaders who would be all-too-happy to inflict their fascism on the rest of us. Kudos to Pope Francis for that.