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Christianity’s role in Europe is service, not colonialism, Pope says

December 26, 2016

Christianity should have an influence in Europe, but it “must not become a colonial enterprise,” Pope Francis said in an interview with the French daily La Croix.

In his latest published interview the Pontiff spoke about migration, Islamic terrorism, and clericalism, as well as the relationship between Christianity and European—epsecially French—society.

Asked about the Christian roots of European civilization, the Pope replied:

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.

However, the Holy Father said that Christianity does have an important role in Europe. “Europe has Christian roots and it is Christianity’s responsibility to water those roots,” he said. He remarked that St. John Paul II had discussed the Christian role in Europe “in a tranquil manner.”

Questioned about Europe’s capacity for accepting immigrants, the Pope said: “That is a fair and responsible question because one cannot open the gates wide unreasonably.” However, he went on to say that one must ask why so many immigrants are flooding into Europe today. He argued that Western corporate interests are largely responsible:

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.

Pope Francis acknowledged that European concerns about immigration are intensified by fears of terrorism. However, he said, “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.” The Pope conceded that “the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam.” But he added that some people draw a similar message about Christian conquest from the Gospel. He concluded:

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.

In a discussion of the negative influence of clericalism within the Church, the Pope said that the blame for clericalism lies with both priests and lay people: “The priest wants to clericalize lay people and lay people request to be clericalized because it’s easier.” He mentioned that clericalism is a particularly difficult problem for the Church in Latin America, and mentioned that when a layman is regarded as a very capable Catholic, many people leap to the assumption that he should be a deacon. “No, let him remain a layman,” the Pope said.

In an exchange about the Church in France, Pope Francis rejected the suggestion that Cardinal Philippe Barbarin should resign because of a sex-abuse scandal in his archdiocese. “Based on the information that I have, I believe that Cardinal Barbarin in Lyon took the necessary measures and that he has matters under control,” the Pontiff said. Resignation, he added, would be “imprudent.”

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  • Posted by: ALC - Dec. 27, 2016 6:13 PM ET USA

    I really just don't know what to make of Pope Francis's comments on pretty much any issue. Why does he always use such derogatory terms when talking about Christians, i.e. triumphalist and vengeful. But, all immigrants are pure as the driven snow and we must welcome them or risk being called uncharitable, unmerciful and selfish.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Dec. 27, 2016 11:35 AM ET USA

    "Feedback" wants to know who Pope Francis' trusted advisors are. As far as I can tell, pick just about any leftist Jesuit making the news, and you will know who advises him. Environmentalists also seem high on the list, and those who proclaim a "messier" kind of church, a church that gets down in the gutter, a church that serves "conscience," not "rules" and "doctrines." I agree that the Pope has a duty to publish a dictionary of his favorite terms. We would then be in a position to "judge."

  • Posted by: feedback - Dec. 27, 2016 1:15 AM ET USA

    It would be helpful to have a dictionary of terms used by Pope Francis. It is very unclear to me, and to every Catholic I know, what His Holiness means by: clericalism, terrorism, triumphalism, Christian colonialism, rigidity, proselytism, and many other terms which he tends to use with so much passion. Also, it would be helpful to know who are his current trusted advisors.