The Pope has given an interview to the French paper La Croix. In that interview he sounds themes familiar to PopeWatch readers:
– In your speeches in Europe, you refer to the “roots” of the continent without ever describing them as Christian. Rather, you define “European identity” as “dynamic and multicultural.” In your view, is the expression “Christian roots” inappropriate for Europe ?
Pope Francis : We need to speak of roots in the plural because there are so many. In this sense, when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones. John Paul II, however, spoke about it in a tranquil manner.
Yes, Europe has Christian roots and it is Christianity’s responsibility to water those roots. But this must be done in a spirit of service as in the washing of the feet. Christianity’s duty to Europe is one of service. As Erich Przywara, the great master of Romano Guardini and Hans Urs von Balthasar, teaches us, Christianity’s contribution to a culture is that of Christ in the washing of the feet. In other words, service and the gift of life. It must not become a colonial enterprise.
On April 16, you made a powerful gesture by bringing back the refugees from Lesbos to Rome. However, does Europe have the capacity to accept so many migrants ?
Pope Francis : That is a fair and responsible question because one cannot open the gates wide unreasonably. However, the deeper question is why there are so many migrants now. When I went to Lampedusa three years ago, this phenomenon had already started.
The initial problems are the wars in the Middle East and in Africa as well as the underdevelopment of the African continent, which causes hunger. If there are wars, it is because there exist arms manufacturers – which can be justified for defensive purposes – and above all arms traffickers. If there is so much unemployment, it is because of a lack of investment capable of providing employment, of which Africa has such a great need.
More generally, this raises the question of a world economic system that has descended into the idolatry of money. The great majority of humanity’s wealth has fallen into the hands of a minority of the population.
A completely free market does not work. Markets in themselves are good but they also require a fulcrum, a third party, or a state to monitor and balance them. In other words, [what is needed is] a social market economy.
Coming back to the migrant issue, the worst form of welcome is to ‘ghettoize’them. On the contrary, it’s necessary to integrate them. In Brussels, the terrorists were Belgians, children of migrants, but they grew up in a ghetto. In London, the new mayor (Editor: Sadiq Khan, the son of Muslim Pakistanis) took his oath of office in a cathedral and will undoubtedly meet the queen. This illustrates the need for Europe to rediscover its capacity to integrate.
I am thinking here of Pope Gregory the Great (Editor: Pope from 590 – 604), who negotiated with the people known as barbarians, who were subsequently integrated. This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate. A demographic emptiness is developing. In France, at least, this trend is less marked because of family-oriented policies.
– The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified?
Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.
In the face of Islamic terrorism, it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way in an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq, where a strong government previously existed. Or in Libya, where a tribal structure exists. We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account. As a Libyan said recently, “We used to have one Gaddafi, now we have fifty.”
Ultimately, co-existence between Christians and Muslims is still possible. I come from a country where they co-habit on good terms. Muslims come to venerate the Virgin Mary and St George. Similarly, they tell me that for the Jubilee Year Muslims in one African country formed a long queue at the cathedral to enter through the holy door and pray to the Virgin Mary. In Central Africa, before the war, Christians and Muslims used to live together and must learn to do so again. Lebanon also shows that this is possible.
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The Pope has a few ideas jangling around in his brain that come out in this interview:
- Wars are caused by arms merchants.
- Free markets do not lead to prosperity.
- Mass immigration from Islamic countries to historically Christian countries is a good thing.
- Celebration of our Catholic past is triumphalist or colonialist.
- Investment in third world nations is important, even while the Pope attacks the economic system that makes investment possible.
- At bottom Christians seeking to convert all the nations to Christ are conquerors just like the Islamic conquerors.
- Islamic immigrants can be integrated into historically Christian countries, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
- Free markets constitute an economic system that worships money.
- The Pope is ever a fan of government intervention in the economy.
- The Pope is no fan of democracy.