Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1969. He later served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998-2013, a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church of Argentina from 2001-13, and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina from 2005-11. On March 13, 2013, Bergoglio became Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s 266th pontiff. From that platform, he has been outspoken on a number of social and political issues.
In November 2013, Francis released the first major document of his papacy—a 67-page Apostilic Exhortation titled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), which characterized capitalism as an economic system where “exclusion and inequality” are ubiquitous; “where the powerful feed upon the powerless”; and where the “idolotry of money” has degraded the human heart. Some additional noteworthy excerpts:
“The problems of the poor,” says Francis, must be “radically resolved” by: (a) “rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation,” (b) “attacking the structural causes of inequality” which “is the root of social ills,” and (c) rejecting “the conservative ideal of individualism,” which “is undermining the common good.” What is needed, he explains, is a “radical new financial and economic system” designed to “avoid human inequality and ecological devastation.” Because “we can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the ‘invisible hand’ of the market,” genuine “growth in justice” requires not merely economic growth, but also “a better distribution of income” and a “legitimate redistribution” of wealth.
In a June 2014 interview, Francis said: “We are discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that can’t hold up any more, a system that to survive, must make war, as all great empires have done. But as a third world war can’t be waged, they make regional wars … they produce and sell weapons, and with this, the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies, the great world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, are resolved …”
Francis took up these themes again in a July 2015 speech in Bolivia, saying: “Colonialism, old and new, which reduces the poor to mere suppliers of raw materials and cheap labor, generates violence, poverty, forced migration, and all the evils that we can see. This led to inequity and violence that no police, military or intelligence services can stop. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. We say ‘no’ to an economy of exclusion and inequity where money dominates instead of serving. This economy kills. This economy is exclusionary. This plan destroys Mother Earth.”
In the same speech, Francis quoted a fourth-century bishop in describing the unfettered pursuit of money as “the dung of the devil.” He said he supported activist efforts to obtain “so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three ‘Ls’: land, lodging and labour.” Denouncing a system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” Francis added: “Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change.” He also decried “the new colonialism” which “takes on different faces” such as “the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.”
The pope’s speech in Bolivia was preceded by lengthy remarks from the country’s Marxist quasi-dictator, Evo Morales, who wore a jacket adorned with the face of the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara. At one point, Morales presented the pope with a gift: a carved wooden hammer-and-sickle cross bearing the figure of a crucified Christ. When Francis was later asked whether he felt troubled in any way by the gift, he replied that he intended to keep it, saying: “I understand this work. For me it wasn’t an offense.”
In a May 17, 2016 interview with the French Catholic daily La Croix, Francis issued a criticism of free-market economies: “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 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.”
In a November 1, 2018 appearance on the NBC television program Late-Night, filmmaker Michael Moore told host Seth Meyers that he had recently had the following exchange with Pope Francis: “I went to the weekly audience, and then he asked to speak to me privately. It was an amazing moment, and I asked him if I could ask him a question. And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Do you believe that an economic system that benefits the few, the wealthy at the expense of the many is a sin?’ And he said to me, ‘Si’ in Italian. And I said, ‘So you believe capitalism, the kinda — the capitalism we have now is a sin?’ He goes, ‘Yes, it is.’ He said, ‘The poor must always come first.’ And then he grabbed my hand and he said, ‘Please, pray for me.’ And I said, ‘I will, and please pray for me.’ And he said, ‘No, you have to make more movies.’ And I’m like, ‘I just wanted a prayer.’ He’s like, ‘No, you go back to — you go back work.’ He has a sense of humor.”
On October 4, 2020 — the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi — Pope Francis unveiled his latest encyclical, titled Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All), in which he said that the coronavirus pandemic had proven that the “magic theories” of free-market capitalism had failed, and that the world needed a new type of politics:
In June 2015, Francis released the first-ever papal encyclical devoted entirely to environmental issues. Lamenting that industrial pollution was causing great damage to “our oppressed and devastated earth,” he claimed that “plenty of scientific studies” had already attributed “the bulk of global warming” to “the great concentration of greenhouse gases” generated by “human action.” “If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” wrote Francis. As a remedy, the pope proposed an increased reliance on “renewable energy sources” such as wind and solar: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels—especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas—needs to be progressively replaced without delay.” Moreover, he exhorted the wealthy to take “urgent action” to “change [their] lifestyles” and their reckless “consumption” patterns.
The pope’s encyclical also framed environmental concerns as legitimate justifications for a massive, compensatory redistribution of wealth from prosperous, industrialized countries to poorer ones: “The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future. The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.”
In a February 17, 2017 speech, Francis warned that “the ecological crisis” caused by anthropogenic climate change “is real,” and that “a very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.” Claiming that catastrophe could result if “we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature,” he said: “Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.” The root of the problem, the pope added, was “a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity”—an apparent reference to capitalism and industrialization.
At a March 2017 workshop on biodiversity and biological extinction, environmentalist Peter Raven stated that “Pope Francis has urged us to have fewer children to make the world more sustainable.” At the same workshop, Dr. Paul Ehrlich presented a paper arguing that Catholic teachings about birth control and abortion had resulted in a “collective failure” to reduce the world’s population.
In September 2017, in the immediate aftermath of four hurricanes that had formed in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions, reporters asked Pope Francis about climate change and the role it may have played in the development of those storms. He replied, “Those who deny this must go to the scientists and ask them. They speak very clearly.” Asserting that politicians as well as ordinary citizens had a “moral responsibility” to do whatever they could to reduce the impacts of climate change, the pope added: “These aren’t opinions pulled out of thin air. They are very clear. Then they [political leaders] decide, and history will judge those decisions.” When asked also to comment on those who denied the alleged ramifications of climate change, Francis responded by citing an Old Testament passage: “Man is stupid.” “When you don’t want to see, you don’t see,” he said.
In anticipation of the upcoming U.N. Climate Action Summit which was scheduled to be held in New York on September 23, 2019, Pope Francis on September 1 released a written message exhorting people to “reflect on our lifestyles,” to not “act like tyrants with regards to creation,” and to take “prophetic actions” aimed at saving the planet. “Now is the time to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels and move, quickly and decisively, towards forms of clean energy and a sustainable and circular economy,” wrote the pope. “Let us also learn to listen to indigenous peoples, whose age-old wisdom can teach us how to live in a better relationship with the environment…. We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.”
In a November 2019 address to the International Association of Penal Law in Rome, Pope Francis announced that in order to combat climate change, “we have to introduce, we are thinking about it, in the catechism of the Catholic Church, the sin against ecology, the sin against our common home, because it’s a duty.”
In an interview in April 2020, while most nations around the world were battling a deadly coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis characterized the crisis as one of “nature’s responses” to mankind’s failure to adequately respond to recent “partial catastrophes” caused by “climate change.” Said Francis: “There is an expression in Spanish: ‘God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives.’ […] Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.” He then proceeded to say he believed that the pandemic might inspire people to change their priorities, lifestyles, and economic systems:
“Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity: the opportunity to move out from the danger. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion.
“Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human. But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back at this time.
“And speaking of contemplation, I’d like to dwell on one point. This is the moment to see the poor. […] We disempower the poor. We don’t give them the right to dream of their mothers. They don’t know what affection is; many live on drugs. And to see them can help us to discover the piety, the pietas, which points towards God and towards our neighbour. […] What we are living now is a place of metanoia [conversion], and we have the chance to begin.”
Pope Francis delivered a video message to a December 12, 2020 “High Level Virtual Climate Ambition Summit” organized by the United Nations, Great Britain, France, Chile, and Italy, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Climate Accord, from which President Trump had withdrawn the U.S. in 2017. Among the pope’s remarks were the following:
That same week, the head of the Vatican’s Department for Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson, articulated a similar message at a webinar in which he warned that “we are heading towards a global temperature rise of three degrees.” Exhorting the faithful to heed the pope’s call for an “ecological conversion,” Turkson noted that since the enactment of the Paris Accord in 2015, “our planet and people have been increasingly sick together.”
Strongly opposed to the death penalty, Francis says “it is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor.” “The commandment ‘You shall not kill,’” he maintains, “has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty.” Francis also urges “all Christians and people of good will” to “struggle … to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty.” “And this,” the pope adds, “I connect with life imprisonment. Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.” By Francis’s calculus, maximum-security prisons represent a form of torture, since their “principal characteristic is none other than external isolation” which can trigger “psychic and physical sufferings such as paranoia, anxiety, depression and weight loss and significantly increase the chance of suicide.”
In 2015, Francis wrote that “today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been.” The death penalty, he added, “entails cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”
In August 2018, Francis approved a revision to the Catholic Church Catechism’s position on capital punishment. The new text read: “Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good. Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”
In May 2015, Francis and the Vatican invited Gustavo Gutierrez, the father of the pro-Marxist liberation theology movement which previous popes had rejected, to speak to the press about ministering to the poor. In addition, Gutierrez was asked to write an article in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. In light of these developments, Gutierrez happily speculated that Pope Francis seemed to be opening the Vatican’s door to supporters of liberation theology. According to philosophy professor Jack Kerwick: “The closest Francis has come to criticizing communism is when he articulated a heavily qualified criticism” of what he called liberation theology’s “Marxist interpretation of reality,” which the pope described as a “limitation” on a system of thought that otherwise had numerous “positive aspects.”
In the fall of 2014, Francis played a role in facilitating the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. According to a statement issued by the Vatican, the pope at that time wrote a personal letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and a separate letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro, inviting both leaders to try to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest.”
When Pope Francis visited Cuba in September 2015, he met with that nation’s president (Raul Castro) as well as many priests, churchgoers, seminarians, children, and sick people. But he did not meet with Cuba’s dissidents, who, as the Washington Post reports, “have fought tirelessly for democracy and human rights, and who continue to suffer regular beatings and arrests.”
During the course of his papacy, Francis has taken pains to issue positive portrayals of Islam. For instance, in late 2014—at a time when Islamic State and other Muslim militants were torturing and killing massive numbers of Christians in Nigeria, Indonesia, Somalia, Libya, Central African Republic, Uganda, Lebanon, Kenya, Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq—he spoke positively of the Islamic faith:
On July 31, 2016, a few days after a jihadist had beheaded an elderly Catholic priest in France, Pope Francis said the following about the correlation between Islam and terrorism:
In a May 17, 2016 interview with the French Catholic daily La Croix, Pope Francis acknowledged that the “idea of conquest is inherent to the soul of Islam,” and then immediately added that “one could also interpret the end of Saint Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus sends out his disciples to all nations, as the same idea of conquest. “In the face of Islamic terrorism,” he added, “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.’”
On May 23, 2016 at the Vatican, Pope Francis embraced his honored guest Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning in Cairo. According to the Associated Press, this meeting “reopen[ed] an important channel for Catholic-Muslim dialogue after a five-year lull and at a time of increased Islamic extremist attacks on Christians.” Islam scholar Robert Spencer provides the background information regarding the chain of events that had led to the meeting:
“Why has there been this ‘five-year lull’? Because [according to the AP,] ‘the Cairo-based Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.’ What did Benedict say? Andrea Gagliarducci of the Catholic News Agency explains that after a jihad terrorist murdered 23 Christians in a church in Alexandria 2011, Benedict decried ‘terrorism’ and the ‘strategy of violence’ against Christians, and called for the Christians of the Middle East to be protected…. Ahmed al-Tayeb … was furious. He railed at Benedict for his ‘interference’ in Egypt’s affairs and warned of a ‘negative political reaction’ to the Pope’s remarks. In a statement, Al-Azhar denounced the Pope’s ‘repeated negative references to Islam and his claims that Muslims persecute those living among them in the Middle East.’ Benedict stood his ground, and that was that.
“But in September 2013, Al-Azhar announced that Pope Francis had sent a personal message to al-Tayeb. In it, according to Al-Azhar, Francis declared his respect for Islam and his desire to achieve ‘mutual understanding between the world’s Christians and Muslims in order to build peace and justice.’ At the same time, al-Tayeb met with the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Mgr. Jean-Paul Gobel, and told him in no uncertain terms that speaking about Islam in a negative manner was a ‘red line’ that must not be crossed… That strongly suggests that the ‘dialogue’ that Pope Francis has now reestablished will not be allowed to discuss the Muslim persecution of Christians that will escalate worldwide, especially since an incidence of that persecution led to the suspension of dialogue in the first place. What’s more, his dialogue partner, al-Tayeb, has shown himself over the years to be anything but a preacher of peace, cooperation and mercy: he has justified anti-Semitism on Qur’anic grounds … Al-Azhar was also revealed to be offering free copies of a book that called for the slaughter of Christians and other Infidels.”
In a February 17, 2017 speech to a world meeting of populist movements, Pope Francis—on the premise that all religions promote peace and are equally susceptible to being perverted by radicals—denied that terrorism is in any way connected to Islam or any other faith: “Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist.” “No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent,” he said, adding: “There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia.” By the pope’s calculus, terrorism results principally from economic inequalities rather than religious beliefs: “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.”
Pope Francis favors the establishment of an independent Palestinian state adjacent to Israel. In May 2014, for instance, the Associated Press reported that Francis had “delivered a powerful boost of support to the Palestinians during a Holy Land pilgrimage …, repeatedly backing their statehood aspirations, praying solemnly at Israel’s controversial separation barrier, and calling the stalemate in peace efforts ‘unacceptable.’” Moreover, the pope had pointedly called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a “man of peace.” And the Vatican, in its official program, referred to Abbas as the president of the “state of Palestine.”
On June 26, 2015, the Vatican signed a treaty with the “State of Palestine,” in hopes that its legal recognition of the state “may in some way be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties.” The signatories were Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher, who issued the foregoing statement, and his Palestinian counterpart, Riad al-Malki. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon lamented that the treaty ignored “the historic rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and to the places holy to Judaism in Jerusalem.”
In September 2015, the Vatican reiterated its support for the nuclear deal that the U.S. and several negotiating partners had recently struck with the government of Iran. The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with the States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said that the Vatican “values positively” the nuclear accord because “it considers that the way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation.” In a September 2015 speech to the United Nations, Pope Francis himself praised the deal as “proof of political goodwill” and voiced his hope that the agreement would be “lasting and efficacious.”
In late February 2017, Francis, in accordance with his effort to create a more “merciful church,” reduced the punishments of a number of priests who had been convicted of sexual crimes like pedophilia. Overruling advice that he had been given by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he reduced the punishment for some offenders to a lifetime of prayer. As The Daily Mail reported: “One of the priests was the Reverend Mauro Inzoli, who was found guilty of abusing young boys by the Vatican in 2012 and was ordered to be defrocked. However, he appealed, and in 2014 Francis reduced the penalty to a lifetime of prayer, prohibiting him from celebrating Mass in public or being near children, barring him from his diocese and ordering five years of psychotherapy. Rev. Inzoli was then convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against five children as young as 12.”
In August 2018, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed that Pope Francis had known about—and covered up—the wrongdoings of U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who stood accused of sexually harassing adult seminarians and abusing a child over a number of years. Vigano demanded that the pope resign. Hours after Vigano went public with his claim, Francis told journalists seeking his response that he “will not say a word” about the charges. In his homily during morning Mass on September 3, 2018, the Pope said: “With people lacking good will, with people who only seek scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within the family – silence, prayer” was the correct response. “May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent,” he added. “This applies to every part of life: to work, at home, in society.”
During a November 2019 visit to Nagasaki — one of two Japanese cities destroyed by American atomic bombs towards the end of World War II — Pope Francis condemned the “unspeakable horror” of nuclear weapons. Among his remarks were the following:
On February 5, 2018, Pope Francis had a 50-minute, closed-door meeting at the Vatican with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan. During that sit-down, the pair discussed a number of matters including the ongoing Syrian civil war, the issue of refugees fleeing the Middle East, and the Trump administration’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a decision opposed by both Francis and Erdogan. At the time of Francis’s meeting with Erdogan, the latter’s forces were engaged in a protracted military offensive against Kurds in Syria — and stood accused of grave human rights abuses. After the meeting, the pope gifted Erdogan a bronze medallion bearing the image of an angel embracing the world while battling a dragon. “This is the angel of peace who strangles the demon of war,” Francis told Erdogan.
In a March 2018 interview with his longtime friend, the 93-year-old atheist philosopher Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis allegedly denied the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year-old doctrines affirming the reality of Hell and the eternal existence of the soul. In the course of the discussion, Scalfari said: “You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity…. Where are they punished?” Francis replied: “They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.” Further, the Pope allegedly stated that the word “revolutionary” is one which “honors me in the sense in which it is said.”
In response to the public uproar that was sparked by these quotes, the Vatican issued a statement saying that Scalfari, whose practice was to neither record nor transcribe what was said in his interviews, had not been “faithful” in his article to the Pope’s words. The National Catholic Register, meanwhile, reported that in previous interviews with Scalfari, the Pope had been quoted as saying that “it is the communists who think like Christians,” and that “there is no Catholic God.”
In a November 2019 address to an Argentinian interreligious dialogue group, Pope Francis cited a scene from the 11th-century French epic poem La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) to suggest that Christians at times had been guilty of religiously motivated violence against Muslims. “A scene from The Song of Roland comes to me as a symbol, when the Christians defeat the Muslims and line them up in front of the baptismal font, with one holding a sword,” he said. “And the Muslims had to choose between baptism or the sword. That is what we Christians did.”
But as an article in the French Catholic news site Riposte Catholique subsequently pointed out: “La Chanson de Roland is obviously not a historical chronicle of events, but an epic poem, a chanson de geste, the oldest and most complete manuscript, written in Anglo-Norman, and dates back to the early twelfth century, four centuries after the facts it is supposed to recount.” And while the Song of Roland was partly inspired by Charlemagne’s expedition to Spain in 778, that expedition was actually undertaken at the request of several Muslim governors of Spain; moreover, it was unsuccessful. “The memory of Pope Francis evoking the victory of the Franks over Muslims is therefore confused, because the expedition was not a victory,” said the piece in Riposte Catholique. “The fictitious case of the forced baptism of Muslims supposedly defeated after the capture of Zaragoza — which did not take place — is not historical, but is a pure imagination of the poet.” Moreover, contrary to the pope’s account, the original work does not even include a Christian holding a sword.
In a December 2019 address to Jesuits in Thailand, Pope Francis compared U.S. President Donald Trump, who strongly favored the construction of a physical barrier to prevent illegal migration from Mexico into the southern United States, to the biblical King Herod who massacred innocent children in an effort to kill the baby Jesus. “In other parts there are walls that even separate children from parents. Herod comes to mind,” Francis said. “Yet for drugs, there’s no wall to keep them out. The phenomenon of migration is compounded by war, hunger and a ‘defensive mindset,’ which makes us in a state of fear believe that you can defend yourself only by strengthening borders…. The Christian tradition has a rich evangelical experience in dealing with the problem of refugees. We also remember the importance of welcoming the foreigner as the Old Testament teaches us.”
In his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” message on Christmas Day 2019, Pope Francis cited a long list of trouble spots across the globe including “the Middle East,” the “beloved Syrian people,” “the Lebanese people,” “Iraq,” “Yemen,” “the whole American continent,” “the beloved Venezuelan people,” “beloved Ukraine,” “the people of Africa,” “the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” “Burkina Faso,” “Mali,” “Niger,” and “Nigeria.” He also made three separate, specific references to migrants worldwide. Yet Hong Kong, which for the preceding six months had been embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict between pro-democracy protesters and Communist China-backed government forces, received no acknowledgment whatsoever from the pope.
According to Vatican analyst Alban Mikozy, the pope’s silence on Hong Kong reflected his willingness to make compromises in order to avoid offending Chinese President Xi Jinping. This analysis was consistent with the fact that during an in-flight press conference about one month earlier, the pope had reiterated his desire to visit China while dodging questions about the Hong Kong protests. “I would like to go to Beijing,” Francis said. “I love China.” When the interviewer asked Francis specifically what he thought about the growing unrest in Hong Kong, the pope replied that the situation there was not unique and needed to be “relativized.” “It’s not just Hong Kong,” he said. “Think of Chile, think of France — the democratic France with a year of yellow vests — think of Nicaragua, think of the other Latin American countries, Brazil, which is struggling, and also any European country. It’s a generalized thing.”
In his Christmas blessing on December 25, 2020, Pope Francis snubbed the Uyghur Muslims of China, calling attention to suffering and injustice around the world but omitting any mention of those suffering under that Communist regime. The pope referred to the people of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the Yazidis, Israelis and Palestinians, the Lebanese people, Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Cameroon, Chile and Venezuela, the Philippines and Vietnam. He added, “I cannot forget the Rohingya people: may Jesus, who was born poor among the poor, bring them hope amid their sufferings.” But he said nothing about the more than one million Uyghurs who were being held in concentration camps in northwest China, where there were reports of genetic testing, organ harvesting, torture, and forced abortions taking place.
As Breitbart.com noted:
“The first and only time that the pope has publicly acknowledged the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of the Uyghur Muslims appeared in his 2020 book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future. In it, the pope stated: ‘I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uyghurs, the Yazidi,’ in a striking departure from his unwritten policy of never criticizing China. The CCP immediately struck back at Pope Francis for his comments, as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pontiff’s remarks had ‘no factual basis at all.’ ‘People of all ethnic groups enjoy the full rights of survival, development, and freedom of religious belief,’ Mr. Zhao said at a daily press briefing. The pope apparently learned his lesson, and in [his Christmas 2020] Urbi et Orbi blessing, he called attention once again to the Rohingya and the Yazidi, but the Uyghurs have been removed from the list.”