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Pope Francis denounces growing ‘demonization’ of enemies and outsiders

Pope Francis gives the traditional red biretta hat to a new cardinal, Sergio da Rocha of Brazil, during a ceremony to install 17 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Stefano Rellandini
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis gives the traditional red biretta hat to a new cardinal, Sergio da Rocha of Brazil, during a ceremony to install 17 new cardinals in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, November 19, 2016. Photo via Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis gives the traditional red biretta hat to a new cardinal, Sergio da Rocha of Brazil, during a ceremony to install 17 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

VATICAN CITY (RNS) At a solemn ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica to elevate 17 new cardinals, Pope Francis on Saturday (Nov. 19) delivered a ringing plea to the world and his own Catholic Church to reject “the virus of polarization and animosity” and the growing temptation to “demonize” those who are different.

The pontiff’s address came across as a powerful, gospel-based indictment of the populist and nationalist anger roiling countries around the world, displayed most recently by the stunning election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S.

“In God’s heart there are no enemies,” Francis told a grand assemblage of hundreds of clerics in elegant scarlet and purple vestments along with thousands of political and civic leaders and supporters of the new cardinals, who include three Americans.

“God has only sons and daughters,” the pope said. “We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people. God has sons and daughters precisely so that no one will be turned away.”

Francis said “our instinctive reaction” is to “discredit or curse” those who we view as opponents, “to ‘demonize’ them so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification” for dismissing them.

God’s unconditional love, he said, “is the true prerequisite for the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn.”

Trump – with his call for a registry for Muslims, a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico and promise to throw the undocumented out of the country — galvanized resentments against immigrants, religious minorities and others during the presidential campaign.

His victory, this summer’s Brexit vote and the growing popularity of nationalist movements across Europe have raised grave concerns around the world, including in the Vatican.

Francis made it clear that for him, such divisive sentiments are anathema.

“We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts,” said the pope, who turns 80 next month. “We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee become a threat, take on the status of an enemy.”

“An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith.” This animosity gradually turns to outright hostility and violence, he said.

Yet Francis did not spare his own church from his warning.

“Yes, between us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings,” he told the hundreds of clerics. “The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting.”

Those words carried a special resonance given the controversy that erupted in recent days as four conservative cardinals publicly challenged Francis over his efforts to make the church more open and pastoral in its ministry, saying that they may try to charge him with teaching heresy if he does not clarify some of his statements.

The “Gang of Four,” as some here have dubbed them, is led by U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a Rome-based churchman who has been one of Francis’ staunchest foes since he was elected pope in 2013.

In an interview published on Friday, Francis appeared to respond to his foes – without naming them – saying some critics “are acting in bad faith to foment divisions.”


READ: Is the pope Catholic? Francis dismisses critics of his teachings


In his address in St. Peter’s on Saturday, Francis said such division were “contrary to the richness and universality” of the Catholic Church, which was on display in the range of new cardinals from countries around the world.

“We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin color, languages and social backgrounds,” he said. “We think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”

The churchmen elevated to the rank of cardinal on Saturday include prelates from 11 dioceses and six countries that have never before had a cardinal, and from places far outside the traditional European orbit of ecclesiastical influence: Albania, for example, plus the Central African Republic, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

Three of the new cardinals are over the age of 80 and thus not eligible to vote in a conclave to elect Francis’ successor.

One of those new cardinals, Sebastian Koto Khoarai of Lesotho in Africa, is 87 and could not make the trip due to poor health. He is still considered an official cardinal.

Francis included three Americans in this new batch of cardinals, the first he has appointed from the U.S. in three rounds of nominations he has made so far.

They are Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago; Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Indianapolis and soon to head the Newark Archdiocese in New Jersey; and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, an Irish-born churchman whom Francis recently transferred from the Dallas Diocese to a major post in the Roman Curia.

Of the 228 current members of the College of Cardinals, 121 are under 80 and thus could vote in a conclave. Vatican guidelines set the number of cardinal-electors at 120, though a pope can exceed that limit.

Francis has appointed 44 of the current cardinal-electors, about one-third. Fifty-six were appointed by his immediate predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and 21 were named by St. John Paul II.

Benedict, who in 2013 became the first pope in 600 years to resign, is 89 and infirm and lives in a monastery inside the Vatican walls.

This is the first consistory, as the service creating new cardinals is known, that Benedict has not been able to attend.

But the new cardinals piled into two minibuses immediately after the ceremony in the basilica and drove through the Vatican gardens to pay Benedict a courtesy visit.

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

65 Comments

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  • I think this applies to everyone, not just the Trump election, but of those who lost and the hate that has taken them over. But again in the immortal words of Travis Bickle, “You talkin’ to me?” the left needs to understand their own hypocrisy too.

  • The headline says it all:

    Pope Francis denounces growing “demonization” of enemies and outsiders.

    He just “denounced” his detractors. And he did so by “demonizing” them and castigating them as “outsiders” because he clearly sees them as his enemies.

    So…. the pope who loves to demonize his enemies (ie: faithful Catholics), lectures the faithful Catholics about demonizing ones enemies.

    It’s official: Lucifer is wetting himself with laughter.

  • Maybe enemies and outsiders need to stop blowing up people, stabbing people, and otherwise ignoring international law and clean up their own countries rather than bringing their mess to other lands.

  • Francis the Fool tells us that it is wrong for a country to maintain and guard its borders. Perhaps it is time for Italy to abrogate the borders of Vatican City and reclaim it by revoking the Concordate. In this way the Vatican could become a really “inclusive” part of Italy and Europe — which Francis should like — instead of a separate leftist entity.

  • So the Pope, while appointing ALL MALES to these highest positions in the Church, says — tsk, tsk, now y’all be nice to outsiders. The Church hierarchs exclude women and gays, and exclude the divorced and remarrieds. We are waiting for the Pope to say or do something that will actually make a dent in the intellectual ghetto that is Vaticanism. Too many of the “daughters of God” are willing to accept a second class role and to disrespect their very own selves.

  • There is no disrespect in having a different role than a man. The disrespect for both sexes is when women want to be men (in their duties), rather than living the role God gave them. They disgrace themselves, men and the Lord.

  • Wow! Ain’t nuthin’ like listening to arch conservative religious people dis each other. It’s so deplorable, it’s almost adorable.

    I am no fan of the pope or the church, but the vitriol directed at him frankly embarrasses me. And I’m an atheist! From San Franciscoi!

    Yet one more case of the Only True Christians (TM) flinging their theo-poo at other True Christians (TM) for not being Really Truly Christians (TM). Amazing!

    The only thing more amazing is the routine accusations directed towards atheists from the various varieties of True Christian (TM) listed above about our alleged disrespect, evilness, lack of morals, vitriol, anger, hate and so forth. If salvation only depended upon projecting one’s own sins onto others!

  • So all men are alike and you must avoid becoming this generic male, whatever that is? Well if that works for you.

  • Officially, the Church states homosexuals are “objectively disordered.” The pope hasn’t changed this and won’t because he said same-sex marriage is an “anthropological regression.” Fr. Krzysztof Charamsa was fired from the Vatican after coming out. The pope refused to accept Laurent Stefanini as French ambassador to the Vatican because he is openly gay.

  • On immigration, the US bishops said they would welcome immigrants “without sacrificing our security” and “honor and respect the laws of this nation.” The pope said “Migrants should be treated according to certain rules, because migration is a right, but one which is highly regulated.” So Democratic municipal gov’ts and other religions will provide sanctuary, but not the pope and his prelates.

  • No. He should stop demonizing the real Catholics, i.e. the Conservatives and Traditionalists. There is no group in the Church he hates so much as the real faithful, who accept all the teachings of the Church and who live according to the commandments.

  • Maybe, and I hope you are correct, but I really believe he is leading to homosexuality becoming an un-sin

  • Being a homosexual isn’t sin. “In the 2000 book ‘The Changing Face of the Priesthood,’ Rev. Donald B. Cozzens suggested that the priesthood was increasingly becoming a gay profession. Cozzens estimated that as much as 58 percent of priests were gay, and that percentages were even higher for younger priests.” What is a sin is marrying/engaging in sex. The pope said same-sex marriage “threatens to disfigure God’s plan.” Marriage equality he said is “ideological colonization that we have to be careful about that is trying to destroy the family.”

  • Oh ye of little faith !
    You are intervening to decide who is one of God’s creatures!
    A pox upon you for your ungodly arrogance….

  • Oh my dear, homosexuality was, is and will always be a sin. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Because some “Rev’ decided to go apostate.
    Now think about this for a second….if you had not committed the sin, why would you refer to yourself as a that sin? That makes no sense at all to define yourself because of sinful temptations. (edited)

  • I agree with you Sandi, even though I also like reading Betty Clermont’s words on the matter. Pope Francis doesn’t personally like gay marriage, but he IS clearly leading people to accept Legalized-Gay-Marriage.

    Only ONCE, in the Phillipines, has Francis criticized gay marriage. Most people don’t even know of that one time, as the media chose not to push the story much. (And how many readers even know what an “anthropological regression” is, for that matter?)

    But in America, Francis has maintained an astonishing total radio silence on the entire issue, even when Tim Kaine (Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidate) publicly and openly promoted gay marriage using the Pope’s own famous “Who am I to judge” line on Sept 10th or 11th.

    Francis has never once said “Hey Americans, please don’t use my “who am I to judge” line to justify your gay marriage”, even though several politicians have in fact already used his line. So let’s be really honest. Whatever else he may / may not believe, Francis IS solidly supporting legalized gay marriage.

  • But it’s perfectly fine to define other people by their sins, because that’s what True Christians (TM) excel at.

    It’s almost as if Jesus never said to achieve personal perfection yourself before denouncing– excuse me, loving– other sinners.

  • I dunno Ben. I don’t feel the need to run around telling everyone I’m a heterosexual as I have had homosexuals do countless times.

  • Relax Sandi, it sounds like you don’t even know what your own church teaches–assuming you are Catholic. Can you imagine yourself “being Christ” to the “least of these,” or are you too busy worrying about the sexual sins of your neighbors? No one is forcing you to have gay sex or even believe in it… just don’t be too quick to notice the splinter in another’s eye when there might be a plank in your own.

  • “We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin color, languages and social backgrounds,” he said. “We think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”

    All true, of course, unless you are a Catholic fundamentalist and you disagree with your Catholic neighbor’s ideology which happens to be slightly different than your own… then of course you are deserving of the aforementioned labels of both enemy and heretic.

  • Maybe you should try a different church. Evidently the Papal Infallibility doctrine (The Pope is unquestioned authority on subjects of Church policy) is a little too much for you. I heard there are many Protestant sects which probably are in line with your brand of reactionary arglebargle.

  • Then try treating ALL people with dignity and respect… i.e., love your neighbor as yourself.

    And no, I’m not gay.

  • i am loving them as I would myself. If there were something hindering me from a relationship with Jesus, I would need to know. I grant that same respect to them. I suggest that you google, the Great Commission.

  • Pope Francis rejected same-sex marriage in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato si’( no. 155) and his exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (nos. 56, 251, 285-286). The pope issued a joint denouncement of same-sex marriage with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in February 2016. He assumed leadership in the global effort against same-sex marriage in November 2014 when he hosted a Vatican conference with representatives from 14 religious traditions and 23 countries on “the complementarity of man and woman” at which he gave the opening address. At the meeting, Rick Warren declared, “Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” Russell Moore said “I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelicals believe about marriage and the gospel.” The pope has referred to same-sex marriage as “the work of the devil,” an “anthropological regression,” and “disfiguring God’s plan for creation.” He has called the movement in many countries to accept same-sex marriage as “ideological colonization that we have to be careful about that is trying to destroy the family.” The only “blackout” has been from the for-profit US media’s creation of a “superstar” which means more advertising revenues.

  • So you deny modern science that increasingly supports the nature of homosexual behavior among humans and other species? How does this statement demonstrate love for your neighbor who happens to be gay:

    “Oh my dear, homosexuality was, is and will always be a sin…” Hidebound Catholics compound the matter by calling them “intrinsically disordered.” I have no idea what it feels like to have SSA, but so long as they treat me (and others) with dignity and respect I will return the treatment in like fashion. Why the need to brand them for life, especially considering you have not walked a single step in their shoes?

    FYI, the Great Commission has nothing to do with a person’s sexual preference.

  • When science catches up with the wisdom of God, I’ll give it credence. Homosexuality is a sin. If you looked the Great Commission up, you would understand.

  • All this talk of multiculturalism and diversity is such liberal mush. And virtually no mention of the unifying grace of the Faith. Smacks of globalism to me.

  • If I want spiritual advice from an infant I’ll ask for it. And I find it exceedingly interesting an atheist would be “embarrassed” by alleged “vitriol” directed at the Catholic pope. Could it be the leftist ideology makes for (not so) strange comrades?

  • She’s splitting hairs. The temptation to commit sexual sin is not sin itself. The pope appears to hold two divergent views simultaneously, and four cardinals have simply asked him to clarify. His response? [crickets]

  • There is no “gay” gene. But thanks for admitting it is a “sexual preference”. But you are wrong to assert the Great Commission has nothing to do with taking the gospel to all the world, preaching and teaching the Truth that will set men and women free. This is what a true Christian does. He doesn’t validate someone in the very sin that could lead them to perdition.

  • People define themselves by their sins in much the same way they send themselves to hell without repentance. Those who love them will warn them before it’s too late.

  • Clearly you have not read what Paul had to say on the subject of marriage and the consecrated life. People who pick and choose which scriptures to read and believe are legion. And they’re called Protestants.

  • The Left often talks about regulating rights. It’s what they do. But a right regulated can hardly be considered a right.

  • “Relationships before rules” Dawg man, or haven’t you heard? Or maybe you have an aversion to our Lord’s two greatest commands… you don’t have to “validate” any behavior you don’t like, but as a Christian (as you profess to be) you most definitely will be judged by the manner in which you treat others.

  • Actually, Edward, I’m not chortling….well, just a little.

    As I said, I’m embarrassed– but then, trumps election also embarrassed me.

    As you know, I am an atheist. And as an atheist, I try hard and mostly succeed in respecting people’s beliefs, even if I don’t share them. My argument is always with dominionism and hypocrisy.

    What I find interesting on these pages are the sheer number of people who fling despite at other people who don’t quite believe the same thing, and are more than willing to damn them as apostates, haters of god, and vile human beings. What I find even more interesting are the people I WOULD describe as “good Christians”– no irony intended– who read the lies, the reviling, the slandering, grave sins all, and say absolutely nothing about it.

  • ” Learn to think rightly….”
    Every murderous dictator has told his people that. Learn to ” think rightly” – or I will kill you.
    Fig – you’re right up there with Hitler, Stalin and Mao.
    You need several Dr Phil’s….

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