Pope Francis Criticizes Political Use of Christianity

ROME — Pope Francis on Tuesday rejected in stark phrases the use of the cross as a political device, an obvious swipe at nationalist forces in Europe and past which have used the imagery of Christianity for private achieve.

“Let us not reduce the cross to an object of devotion, much less to a political symbol, to a sign of religious and social status,” Francis mentioned in jap Slovakia throughout a four-day go to to that nation and to Hungary, his first journey since present process intestinal surgical procedure in July.

The remarks got here two days after Francis stopped in Budapest, the place he met Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has made Hungary’s Christian roots and identification an indicator of his political messaging and insurance policies, together with anti-immigrant and nationalist measures.

“The cross is not a flag to wave, but the pure source of a new way of living,” Francis mentioned, including Christian “views no one as an enemy, but everyone as a brother or sister.”

Francis has a observe file of talking extra freely, and critically, of a rustic after leaving it. In 2017, he spoke out in help of the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar after departing that nation for neighboring Bangladesh.

On Sunday, he urged bishops in Hungary to embrace variety. And after celebrating a Mass there, with Mr. Orban within the entrance row, he mentioned that robust Christian roots allowed a nation to achieve out “toward all.”

But the pope’s remarks in Slovakia on Tuesday have been extra blunt. He appeared to increase his criticism to politicians and activists who use Christian references and symbols to achieve floor in so-called tradition wars.

“How often do we long for a Christianity of winners,” he requested, “a triumphalist Christianity that is important and influential, that receives glory and honor?”

Francis was chatting with about 30,000 trustworthy in Presov, in jap Slovakia, the place he presided over a Byzantine ceremony often known as a Divine Liturgy, which is utilized by Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

He then added to his message of inclusion by touring to fulfill with the nation’s Roma, who’ve lengthy skilled discrimination and poverty, within the rundown and segregated settlements of Kosice.

Residents wanting on as Francis met with members of the Roma group on Tuesday in Kosice, Slovakia.Credit…Petr David Josek/Associated Press

In his homily on Tuesday, Francis spoke at size about Christian identification, lamenting that the cross and crucifix had too typically develop into mere adornments, diluting their true which means.

What is the worth, he requested, of hanging a crucifix from a rearview mirror or one’s neck if an individual has no significant relationship with Jesus? “What good is this,” he mentioned, “unless we stop to look at the crucified Jesus and open our hearts to him?”

In current years, some politicians in Europe have used non secular symbols as half of marketing campaign messages centered on identification politics.

In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the chief of the populist League celebration, typically campaigned with rosary beads in hand. At one rally with far-right leaders from France, Germany and the Netherlands, he additionally invoked the safety of the Virgin Mary over Italy.

Some conservative cardinals within the Vatican — many of whom are extremely essential of Francis — spoke glowingly of Mr. Salvini and have additionally expressed sympathy towards Mr. Orban.

In interviews earlier than the pope’s go to on Sunday, a number of Hungarian monks and different Catholics in Budapest echoed Mr. Orban’s emphasis on Hungary as a Christian nation. They mentioned the prime minister had been unfairly criticized for standing up in opposition to waves of largely Muslim migration, which he has in comparison with an invasion.

On Sunday, Mr. Orban and Francis convened for a courtesy assembly that lasted 40 minutes, and the prime minister urged the pontiff “not to let Christian Hungary perish.”

Francis spent simply seven hours in Hungary, regardless of appeals by its bishops for him to remain longer.

The Vatican mentioned that the pope’s go to to Budapest was purely religious in nature, to have fun the closing Mass of a weeklong Catholic congress. But others near the pope allowed that there might be a tacit message to Mr. Orban within the discrepancy between the time spent in Hungary and that spent in Slovakia, which is led by a progressive president who, like Francis, is essential of nationalism.