With a wave of populist politics sweeping both Europe and the U.S., Pope Francis recently felt it appropriate to mention the most nefarious instance in which a charismatic, nontraditional, nationalist and anti-immigrant leader was voted into power: Nazi Germany.
“After the crisis of 1930, Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler,” His Holiness recently said in an interview with Spanish newspaper, El Pais. “Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.”
Largely in response to the continent’s refugee crisis, voters in Europe have increasingly thrown their support behind candidates running on platforms of dramatic anti-immigrant measures.
Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned this sort of nationalist mindset.
He famously chided then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 by saying that a “person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Trump did not take kindly to the comment, and responded by calling the pontiff a “pawn” for the Mexican government.
Despite their rocky history, Pope Francis insisted he was not denouncing America’s new Commander-in-Chief right off the bat.
“I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely,” he said. “We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion.”
That opinion, along with his views on policies being adopted in Europe, will likely be shaped by how countries respond to the 65 million displaced people currently seeking shelter from violence, poverty and drought.
“Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees — fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life — the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken,” he said in 2015.
He later took 12 Muslim refugees in himself after a visit to Greece. Six of them were children.
Though the Pope’s most recent comments did not specifically mention American politics, it seems telling that they come three days after Trump’s inaugural address.
“From this day forward,” the newly sworn in president said from the steps of a rain-soaked capitol building, “it’s going to be only America first. America first.”
That sentiment, “America first,” is not a new one.
It was most notably used by the America First Committee which, in 1940, was created to dissuade the country from fighting against a budding nationalist administration:
Coincidentally or not, Nazi Germany.
Next, read about how Pope Francis feels about women in the priesthood. Then, look at how Nazi language is becoming more common in Germany’s discussion of the refugee crisis.