Pope Francis is pretty clear about where he stands on immigration. Welcoming refugees and migrant workers is a “moral imperative,” he said last February. You can’t call yourself a Catholic and be anti-refugee at the same time, he said last October. To the pontiff, keeping borders open to those fleeing wars and poverty is a duty stemming from the Christian virtue of “caritas,” compassion toward fellow humans.
As populism shapes the global immigration debate, Pope Francis has so often spoken out in support of migrants and urged Europe’s parishes to take in refugees that some say the Catholic Church has, under his leadership, emerged as one of “the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe.” The pontiff has even called populism “evil.”
Right-wing populists seem, at times, no fonder of Pope Francis than he is of them. President Trump, who will visit the pope at the Vatican on Wednesday, is arguably one such populist. After the pontiff suggested last year that Trump was “not a Christian” because of his plan for a Mexican border wall, Trump called him “disgraceful.”
Despite the pope’s stances, some Catholics have been embracing right-wing populism. In Italy, the mainstream Catholic press—especially the prestigious newspaper Avvenire and the widely popular magazine Famiglia Cristiana—has remained skeptical of Trump, and has so far been relatively subdued about the upcoming visit. But Tempi, the magazine of choice for conservative Catholics, toward which some populists also gravitate, has praised the U.S. president and even features a satirical column mocking those who criticize him; dubbed “Trump che rovina cose,” or “Trump spoiling things,” it includes jokes such as “It’s raining, because of Trump” or “Trump scares children.”