Pope Francis speaks as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou looks on during a meeting with government authorities, civic leaders and the diplomatic corps at the presidential palace in Athens, Greece, Dec. 4, 2021. CNS photo/Paul Haring

World seeing ‘retreat’ from democracy: Pope Francis

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  • December 8, 2021

ATHENS, Greece -- From Aristotle to St. Gregory Nazianzus, and from the Acropolis to the olive tree, Pope Francis drew from Greek history and culture to appeal for a faith that is lived in good works and a politics that truly seeks the common good.

Arriving in Greece from Cyprus Dec. 4, Pope Francis went directly from the airport to meetings with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and then a large group of political, civic and cultural representatives.

“Here democracy was born,” he told the representatives. “Yet we cannot avoid noting with concern how today — and not only in Europe — we are witnessing a retreat from democracy.

“Democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all; consequently, it demands hard work and patience,” he said. “It is complex, whereas authoritarianism is peremptory, and populism’s easy answers appear attractive.”

A political stance that seeks only popularity and easy answers is not worthy either of the description politics or of a place in a democracy, Pope Francis said.

“Politics is, and ought to be in practice, a good thing, as the supreme responsibility of citizens and as the art of the common good,” he said. “So that the good can be truly shared, particular attention — I would even say priority — should be given to the weaker strata of society.”

Sakellaropoulou told the Pope the Christian churches’ preaching and work for “unity and concord” and their concern for migrants and refugees, the poor, the environment and all who are suffering because of COVID-19 are important not just for believers.

“It is directly related to the politics of care and humanity and paves the way for peaceful co-existence and prosperity for all of us,” she said. “The safeguarding of human dignity and social cohesion is the challenge that gives meaning to the relationship between ecclesiastical and secular authorities in a global society with inexhaustible potential, but also with painful contradictions.”

Pope Francis agreed. The history, philosophy and faith of the Greeks throughout the centuries urge people to look “toward the heights, toward God,” but also to look across the seas to recognize themselves as citizens not only of their cities or country, but of the world.

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