View From Rome
09 February 2017
View from Rome
Opposition to Pope Francis started bubbling away almost as soon as he was elected. Now it has spilled out into the streets of Rome. What had previously been confined to letters and blogs circulated by conservative cardinals and pressure groups has been given a more populist flavour after a mysterious series of anti-Francis posters were seen plastered around 40 locations in the Eternal City.
They show a stern-looking Pope, with captions asking “where is your mercy?” and claiming he had “decapitated” the Knights of Malta, “removed priests” and “ignored cardinals”. Intriguingly, the slogans are written in the Roman dialect, perhaps to suggest that the posters express the feelings of the common people of Rome.
Any student of the career of Jorge Bergoglio shouldn’t be surprised. Throughout his life, he has inspired loyal disciples and irritated powerful opponents. It happened when he was leader of the Argentinian Jesuits and when, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he clashed with the Kirchners, Argentina’s political power couple.
As Pope, Francis has been a populist leader who takes his compassionate Catholic vision directly to ordinary people, sometimes over the heads of the elites, including those he describes as “doctors of the law”, seeking refuge in rigidity. And when populists challenge and disrupt, they inevitably create enemies.
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