Prime Minister Johnson secured a huge 80-seat majority after Thursday’s election, leaving the Labour Party in chaos as speculation over a replacement for Jeremy Corbyn takes centre stage. But journalist and expert on the Catholic Church John L. Allen Jr has argued that the Johnson victory may prove that Pope Francis’ political messaging is not making an impact in all parts of the world.
Mr Allen highlights in his article for Crux that the Pope won the Charlemagne Prize in 2016 for his advocacy of deeper European unification.
The Pope has long been a supporter of the EU project, claiming in July at a meeting with Europe’s leaders that international solidarity was the “most effective antidote to modern forms of populism”.
However, he also sent a huge warning to the EU in 2017, claiming that unless it changed course it risked “dying”.
He said: “When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying.”
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With Mr Johnson arguably grabbing the biggest mandate yet for departure from the EU, it is clear voters in the UK do not share the Pope’s admiration for Brussels.
The Pope’s words seem prescient as far as the UK is concerned, but euroscepticism not just in the UK, but across Europe, is growing as the bloc struggles to contend with growing unrest.
One example is the right-wing ‘Alternative for Germany’, or AfD, which has built its political message on anti-immigration and opposition to Brussels.
The emergence of parties like the AfD prove that the Pope’s pro-immigration outlook has not inspired many in Europe.
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Francis has made caring for migrants a hallmark of his papacy, traveling to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in 2013 in his first trip as Pope to comfort would-be refugees who survived shipwrecks and smugglers to reach Europe.
He brought 12 Syrians home with him when he visited a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, three years later, and he has turned over Vatican apartments to house new arrivals to Italy.
This has led to criticism close to home, including from Italian politician Matteo Salvini, who is also a hardline Eurosceptic.
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One tweet from Mr Salvini’s account, in May 2016, said: “The Pope says migrants are not a danger. Whatever!” and he was also pictured in 2016 holding a shirt saying “Benedict is my pope”.
In Mr Allen’s article, he also highlights that Europe is not the only part of the world where resistance to his messages is clear.
Pope Francis has also made preservation of the Amazon rainforest a central theme in his messaging, but Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of facilitating the exploitation of the forest for business ventures.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Mr Allen points out that Pope Francis’ anti-violence message has done nothing to reduce President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, and has also mocked the Church and its leaders.