Donald Trump, Pope Francis (Reuters/Brendan McDermid/Max Rossi/Photo montage by Salon)

Pope Francis warns against populist leaders "like Hitler" in interview given during Donald Trump's inauguration

"Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people"

Sophia Tesfaye
January 23, 2017 10:30PM (UTC)

Pope Francis appears ready and willing to troll Donald Trump in an effort to prevent World War III.

In an interview that lasted more than an hour with Spanish newspaper El Pais and conducted just as Donald Trump was being sworn in as the 45th U.S. president on Friday, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church warned against the rise of populist leaders like Adolf Hitler.


"Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people," Pope Francis noted. The pope explained to the paper that he worries about the rise of populism in the United States and Europe.

"In times of crisis, we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me," he said. "The case of Germany is classic," he continued, adding that Hitler gave them a "deformed identity and we know what it produced."

"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 said 'I can do it.'"


Pope Francis declined, however, to take his trolling to the next level and directly link Trump to Hitler. "We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion," he said. He argued that "being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise." Instead, Francis said, "We must wait and see":

We need specifics. And from the specific we can draw consequences. We are losing our sense of the concrete. The other day, a thinker was telling me that this world is so upside down that it needs a fixed point. And those fixed points stem from concrete actions. What did you do, what did you decide, what moves did you make? That is why I prefer to wait and see.

Asked if he feared that Trump's success may give rise to even more extreme right-wing populist movements in Europe, Pope Francis referenced a conflict he's had with the newly elected president.

"In times of crisis we lack judgment," he said. "Let's look for a savior who gives us back our identity and let us defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other people who may rob us of our identity."


Last February Trump lashed out at Pope Francis after he criticized Trump's plans for a constructing wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. "A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian," Pope Francis said of  Trump. "I'd just say that this man is not Christian, if he said it this way."

In his typical, over-the-top fashion, Trump responded by invoking the possibility of a terror attack on the Vatican.


"If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS's ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened," Trump said in a statement on his website.

On Friday Pope Francis warned against leaders who use the threat of terror to start war.

"Can borders be controlled? Yes, each country has the right to control its borders, who comes in and who goes out, and those countries at risk — from terrorism or such things — have even more of a right to control them, but no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbors," Pope Francis argued.


"That is why I always try to say: Talk among yourselves, talk to one another,” he added.

A day after Trump was sworn into office, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen told several hundred supporters in Germany that his inauguration speech included "accents in common" with the message of reclaiming national sovereignty by Europe's far-right leaders.

She said to loud applause that "2016 was the year the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. I am sure 2017 will be the year the people of continental Europe wake up."


Le Pen was spotted at Trump Tower in New York City just days before Trump's inauguration.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Catholic Church Donald Trump Hitler Pope Francis Trolling Vatican

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