Pope Francis has expressed concern over the rise of far-right populist movements in the western world and even pushed back against the idolization of his own person as leader of the Catholic faith, in his first interview with a German publication.
“Populism is evil and ends badly, as the last century has shown,” Pope Francis told German weekly Die Zeit, a sister publication of Handelsblatt Global, in an interview published Thursday. “Populism means taking advantage of the people,” he added.
The pope, the leader of more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide, said he rejected the idolization of single individuals, whether politicians or spiritual leaders – including himself.
“We cannot forget that the idolizing of humans is often a subliminal form of aggression,” he said. “When I am idolized, I feel assaulted.”
“I too know the empty moments.”
Pope Francis, who turned 80 in December, spoke slowly, full of concentration and with a quiet voice throughout the conversation, according to Die Zeit, which spoke with the pope in late February. The interview, held in Italian, took place in Santa Martha’s House, a guest house next to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City that Pope Francis has made his home since 2013.
Pope Francis was at pains to stress in the interview that he, too, is a fallible human being: “I do not see myself as something special, I am a sinner and I am fallible.”
That includes moments in his past of questioning his own faith, something the pope said is normal and even to be expected among the religious.
“I too know the empty moments,” Pope Francis told Die Zeit. “You can’t grow without crises…A faith that doesn’t fall into a crisis to grow remains infantile.”
Chris Cermak is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org