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In Athens, the advice of Pope Francis in the face of the « decline in democracy »

Pope Francis left Cyprus for Athens on Saturday, December 4, on the third day of his visit to the two Greek-speaking countries. In Greece, as in Nicosia, the fate of migrants will be at the center of his remarks. Sunday, in particular, with the second visit of the head of the Catholic Church to Lesbos, an Aegean island near the Turkish coast, on which refugees from Asia Minor have been landing for years on their way to Europe. He had already been there in 2016 and brought three Syrian families to Rome, where they had been taken care of by the Community of Sant’Egidio.

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But Pope Francis took advantage of his arrival in Athens, where the democratic idea was born, to insert the question of refugees into a more global reflection on politics, considered by him as a  » good thing « . « Here was born democracy, he said during a speech delivered at the end of the morning at the presidential palace, in front of the political authorities of the country. The cradle, millennia later, has become a house, a great house of democratic peoples: I am thinking here of the European Union and of the dream of peace and fraternity that it represents for so many peoples. « 

But this invention, François estimated, is today weakened by what he called « The decline of democracy ». « And not only on the European continent », said the first American pope, without giving an example. « In many societies, preoccupied with safety and numbed by consumerism, fatigue and discontent lead to a sort of »democratic skepticism ””, he analyzed. This doubt for democracy stems, according to him, to its very nature – « It is complex, while authoritarianism is hasty and the easy assurances offered by populisms seem tempting ». It is accentuated by « Remoteness from institutions, fear of loss of identity and bureaucracy ».

Poverty, climate and the pandemic

How can this skepticism be remedied? By doing « Good policy », which grants to « Weakest in society » a  » particular attention « . The answer therefore belongs, according to the Pope, to the rulers, who must renounce « An obsessive search for popularity » and to « Untenable promises ». « Because politics is a good thing, it must be so in practice, as the supreme responsibility of the citizen, as an art of the common good », François said.

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The Roman Pontiff gave some examples of the areas in which he considers this urgent « Good policy » : the climate, the pandemic and « Especially generalized poverty ». On these issues, he calls on the international community « To a multilateralism which is not stifled by excessive nationalist claims ». « Politics needs this to put common demands ahead of private interests, he added. It may sound like a utopia (…). And yet crossing a rough sea, as the great Homeric story teaches us, is often the only way. « 

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