Last Friday, while Donald J. Trump was being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of American, Pope Francis granted a 75 minute interview to Antonio Caño, editor-in-chief of El Pais, the largest daily newspaper in Spain. The paper's correspondent in Rome, Paplo Ordaz, joined Caño. Francis is head of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the sovereign ruler of the Vatican, an independent city-state.
Asked about Trump's presidency because, "the whole world is tense," Francis counseled caution.
"I think we must wait and see," he said. "I don't like to ...judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion."
Some thirty to forty-five minutes later, Caño asked a question about the "phenomenon" of "political groups" that are "anti-system or populists." Specifically, he clarified, these are groups, and people, who "capitalize on the fears in face of an uncertain future in order to form a message full of xenophobia and hatred towards the foreigner."
"Trumps's case," Caño added, "is the most noteworthy."
Instead of rebuking the label of hateful xenophobia, even by reminding, once again, to "wait and see," Francis tacitly agreed with Caño and added a label of his own.
The social dynamic that led to Trump's election, he said, was crisis-motivated "populism."
It was a judgment on which Francis pontificated at some length.
"In my opinion," he explained, "the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933. 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 who says: "I can, I can."
"And all Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.
"That is the risk. In times of crisis, we lack judgment.
"...Let's look for a savior who gives us back our identity and lets defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other peoples that may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing."
"...The case of Germany in 1933 is typical, a people that was immersed in a crisis, that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened."
The official English translation of the entire interview with Francis is available online.