Pope Francis warned against populist leaders, saying that Germany came to elect one in 1933, and ended up with Adolf Hitler as its dictator.
“Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most common example of European populism is Germany in 1933… A people that was immersed in a crisis, that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened,” he said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
“Hitler did not steal power,” the Pope said. “He was elected by his people and then he destroyed his people.”
“In times of crisis, we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me… That is why I always try to say: talk among yourselves, talk to one another,” he added.
Pope Francis was talking to the newspaper as Donald Trump was sworn it as the new US president in Washington, DC. Some critics say Trump has authoritarian leanings.
The Pope said he would not jump to conclusions on Trump, and will observe his actions before passing judgment.
“We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion. But being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise. It would be like prophets predicting calamities,” he said.
The Catholic leader also discussed the state of the Church, a possible visit to China, and the changes he has undergone since becoming pope.
Concerns over the rise of populism have been increasingly loud in the West, especially in Europe, where previously marginal parties have been gaining popularity amid economic problems and the migrant crisis. Some political observers say the term ‘populist’ is often used to brand counter-establishment political forces as irrelevant and dangerous.