“I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934. ‘Us first. We… We…’ These are frightening thoughts,” said Pope Francis, according to The Hill, in an interview published Friday in which the pontiff warned against the rise of nationalism in the world. Pope Francis, as he has previously, also spoke out against the increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric that has accompanied this rise in nationalism.
The pope’s interview, which was originally published in Italy’s La Stampa, was occasioned by political happenings in Italy which disconcertingly mirror political happenings here. Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who has been likened to President Trump over his anti-immigrant, ‘Italy first’ rhetoric, has called for Italy’s parliament to be dissolved and has asked Italy’s president to call for new elections, all in an effort to move the country to the right politically. At this point, we may be grateful that President Trump does not have the power to dissolve Congress and call for new elections. Italian President Sergio Mattarella has not said whether or not he will do as Salvini asks and call for new elections, but the move comes at a time of significant disagreements in Italy’s coalition government that suggest it may not stay coalesced in its current configuration. Salvini has previously been dismissive of the pope’s comments about immigration. According to The Hill:
Pope Francis on Friday said he was “concerned” about recent political rhetoric, cautioning against nationalism and saying that recent political speeches he’s heard “resemble those of Hitler in 1934.” … The pope’s comments come after Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini called for the parliament to be dissolved and asked President Sergio Mattarella to institute snap elections as an attempt to push the country’s government further right politically, The Washington Post reported. … The paper noted that Salvini has drawn comparisons to President Trump for his rhetoric saying Italy should be put first and that the country should crack down on immigration. …Pope Francis said Friday that migrants should be integrated into society and that nationalism is an “attitude of isolation.” …Salvini has spoken out openly against the pope and his stance on immigration, tweeting in 2016 that “The pope says migrants are not a danger. Whatever!”
In that last quote, with Salvini mustering only the rather anemic intellectual firepower it takes to respond to the pope’s reasoned argument in support of immigrants with “Whatever!”, who does Salvini sound like? Perhaps a certain president? As alarming as the Trump-led rise of nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiments in this country is, it is all the more alarming and potentially dangerous that it is happening in other countries as well, including Italy, Hungary, and the United Kingdom. The pope’s concern that the rhetoric in some of these politicians’ speeches sounds like those Hitler used to drum up a culture of hatred and blind allegiance certainly seems valid and makes one wonder where this is all headed. There is, after all, that old line that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.