Pope Francis compared European nationalism to Hitler’s rise to power today after Italy’s Matteo Salvini attempted to tighten his grip on power.
Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, whose slogan is ‘Italians first,’ pulled support for the coalition government and called for snap elections on Thursday.
Salvini had urged for a ‘sovereignist’ right-wing front to challenge the EU in European elections earlier this year.
The pope warned, in an interview published in La Stampa on Friday, that ‘sovereignism reveals an attitude toward isolation’ and compared increasing nationalism to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s.
‘I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934. “Us first, We… We…” These are frightening thoughts,’ the pope told the Turin paper.
The 82-year-old pontiff lived through years of right-wing dictatorship in his native Argentina.
Ahead of the EU elections in May, Salvini reached out in his bid for a ‘sovereignist’ alliance to France’s far-right party leader Marine Le Pen and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Far-right parties performed strongly in those polls.
‘Sovereignty must be defended, but relations with other countries, with the European community must also be protected and promoted,’ the pope said.
He did not mention Salvini or any other specific cases in Europe.
‘Sovereignism is an exaggeration that always ends badly: it leads to war’.
Salvini called on Thursday for a snap election in Italy, after falling out with the populist M5S party, his partners in the current coalition government.
‘I ask Italians if they want to give me full powers,’ he told journalists at a political rally.
Opinion polls indicate that Salvini and his popular far-right League party would comfortably win an election in the coming months.
They indicate he could govern with the support of the smaller, far-right Brothers of Italy party.