Iliana Magra, I Kathiremeni: Good morning, Holy Father. Thank you for your visit to Greece. During your speech at the Presidential Palace in Athens, you spoke about the retreat of democracy around the world and in particular in Europe. Could you elaborate a bit on that and tell us which countries you were referring to? And one more thing: what would you say to far-right leaders and voters around Europe who profess to be devout Christians while at the same time promoting undemocratic values and policies?
Pope Francis: Democracy is a treasure, a treasure of civilization, and it must be treasured, it must be guarded. And not only guarded by a superior entity, but guarded by the countries themselves, [one must] guard the democracy of others.
I see two dangers to democracy today: one is that of populism, which is here and there, and is beginning to show its teeth. I am thinking of a great populism of the last century, Nazism, which was a populism that by defending national values, so it said, succeeded in annihilating democratic life, indeed to the death of people, annihilating, becoming a bloody dictatorship.
Today I will say, because you asked about right-wing governments, let us be careful that governments, I am saying right-wing or left-wing, let us be careful that governments do not slip down this road of populism, of so-called political “populisms,” which have nothing to do with popularisms, which are the free expression of peoples, who show themselves with their identity, their folklore, their values, their art... Populism is one thing, popularism another. On the other hand, democracy is weakened, [it] enters a path where it slowly [weakens] when national values are sacrificed, are watered down towards, let’s say an ugly word, but I can’t find another one, towards an “empire,” a kind of supranational government. This is something that should make us think.
Neither should we fall into populism, where the people — we say the people, but it is not the people, but a dictatorship of “us and not the others” — think of Nazism, nor fall into watering down our identities in an international government. On this, there is a novel written in 1903 (you will say “how old-fashioned this pope is in literature!”) written by Benson, an English writer, “Lord of the World,” who dreams of a future in which an international government with economic and political measures governs all the other countries, and when you have this kind of government, he explains, you lose freedom and you try to achieve equality among all; this happens when there is a superpower that dictates economic, cultural and social behavior to the other countries.
Democracy is weakened by the danger of populism, which is not popularism (that is the good one), and by the danger of these references to international economic and cultural powers... this is what comes to mind, but I am not a political scientist, I speak by saying what I think.
Bruni: The third question comes to us from Manuel Schwarz of DPA, the German news agency.
Manuel Schwarz, Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Holy Father, first of all thank you for letting us go with you on this important journey. Migration is a central theme not only in the Mediterranean, but also in other parts of Europe, especially in Eastern Europe these days, with so many “barbed wires” as you called them. And also with the Belarusian crisis. What do you expect from the countries in this area? Poland, for example, and also Russia. And what do you expect from other important countries in Europe? For example, in Germany, where there will now be a new government after the Angela Merkel era.
Pope Francis: On those people who prevent immigration or close the borders — now it is fashionable to build walls, to make barbed wires, “concertinas” [curled barbed wire] — the Spanish know what this means — it is usual to do these things to prevent access. The first thing I would say if I had a leader in front of me is: “Think about the time that you were a migrant and they wouldn’t let you go, that you wanted to escape your land, and now you’re the one building walls.”
This works because those who build walls lose the sense of their own history, their own story, of when they were slaves of another country. Not everyone has this experience, but at least a large part of those who build walls have this experience of having been slaves.
You may say to me: but governments have the duty to govern and if such a wave of migrants comes, you cannot govern. I will say this. Every government must clearly say: ”I can receive many.” Because the leaders know how much they are able to receive. It is their right, this is true. But migrants must be welcomed, accompanied, promoted, and integrated. If a government cannot do this, it must enter into dialogue with others and let others take care, each one. And this is important. The European Union, because the European Union is able to make harmony between all governments for the distribution of migrants. Think about Cyprus. Think about Greece. Think about Lampedusa. Think about Sicily. Immigrants are coming and there is no harmony among all the countries of the European Union to send this one here, that one there, this one here … This basic harmony is missing.
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And then, the last word I said was ”integrated,” right? They should be welcomed, accompanied, promoted, and integrated. Why integrated? Because if you do not integrate the migrant, this migrant will have a ghetto citizenship. An example that I am not sure if I have said it on the plane before is the example that strikes me the most, the Zaventem tragedy [suicide bombings at Brussels Airport in Belgium in 2016]. The boys who caused the catastrophe at the airport were Belgian, but the sons of ghettoized migrants. If you don’t integrate the migrant — with education, with work, with the care of the migrant — you risk having a guerrilla fighter or someone who will do these things to you. It is not easy to welcome migrants, it is not easy to solve the problem of migrants, but if we do not solve the problem of migrants we risk making a shipwreck of civilization. Today in Europe things are not only shipwrecked in the Mediterranean, no, our civilization.
This is why the representatives of European governments need to come to an agreement. For me, a model of reception and integration in its time was Sweden, which welcomed all the Latin American migrants of the military dictatorships — Chileans, Argentinians, Uruguayans, Brazilians — and integrated them. Today I was in a school here in Athens, and I looked over at the translator and said: “But here there is — I used a household word — there is a fruit salad of cultures. They are all mixed together.” And he said to me: “This is the future of Greece.”
Integration is growing. It is important. It is not: “I do not receive because…” No.
And then another drama I would like to point out. When the migrant, before coming, falls into the hands of the trafficker, they take all the money they have and bring them on the boat. When they are sent back, they are caught by these traffickers. In the dicastery for migrants, there are videos showing what happens in those places where the migrants who are from those territories are sent to. So you cannot just welcome them and leave them, except that we have to welcome them, promote them, integrate them. So if I send back the migrant, I have to accompany him and integrate him in his country, not leave him on the Libyan coast. This is cruelty. If you want to know more about this, ask the dicastery for migrants that has these videos. And there is a film — you know of it, for sure — by [the Spanish NGO] Open Arms, which is a bit romanticized, but it shows the reality of those who drown there. It is a horrific thing, this. But we risk civilization.
Cecile Chambraud, Le Monde: [Speaking in Spanish] Holy Father, on Thursday, when we arrived in Nicosia, we learned that you had accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris, Archbishop Aupetit. Can you tell us why? And why in such a hurry?
Second question: Following the report of an independent commission on sexual abuse, the French bishops’ conference has recognized that the Church had an institutional responsibility for what thousands of victims have suffered. They also spoke of the systemic dimension of this violence. What do you think of these statements of the French bishops? What meaning could they have for the universal Church? And, last question, will you receive the members of this independent commission?