“The future of Europe largely depends on manpower from other Countries. This entails planning a common strategy. Migrants are a source of richness; men and women fleeing famine and armed conflicts want to work.” Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal is the General Superior of the Society of Jesus. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 12 1948, Father Sosa said he is “concerned” over the spread of what he describes as “personalisms” across the world.
Has the definition of “populism” extended further?
Populism is a ploy. It entails the presence of the people supporting a leader, but this is no longer happening. That’s how they gained support in Latin America, with huge movements of people that enabled passing from agricultural to industrial economy. Conversely, the representatives of contemporary populisms lack popular support. They are remarkably anti-political and oppose political party structure. They ride nationalistic waves, and instead of elevating them to the level of identity motivations, they exploit them to erect new walls. They aim at achieving personal power. And they are very dangerous.
The people have been deluded, they count nothing.
The leaders take advantage of the people’s discontent to cultivate their own interests.
Diffidence towards the reception of migrants also involves many Catholics. Why?
It’s a spontaneous form of resistance that is not in bad faith. Diffidence towards diversity is a widespread feeling, but as Christians we are called to do the exact opposite. It’s a conversion process that involves everyone. Italy is among the most welcoming countries in Europe. The problem is at political level: how can Christians contribute to an open society?
Rules are necessary, migration must be governed. But Europe needs migrants.
Should the Church increase her interaction with the political realm?
Not only the Church, but all Christian faithful. Without strong social pressure, the governments won’t do more than what they are doing now. The population needs to understand the migration phenomenon, that encompasses many forms of illegal trafficking. We should not be afraid of the political sphere.
Citizenship is a result of the faith.
We are all called to take part in public life.
Donald Trump has recently completed his visit abroad, that included a meeting with Francis. What do you think of his first months of presidency?
I am worried. For example, in his speeches Trump ignores the importance of the migrant population in the United States. The political action of a Country as important as the United States cannot consist in erecting new walls or calling upon the population to purchase weapons for self-defence. The US Government must listen more carefully to the people. Those who disagree with Trump are many.
Stockholm, Paris, Manchester, London. Is Europe the theatre of a religious war?
Religions and extremisms are two very different things. When it turns into ideology and ambition for power, it’s no longer religion but fundamentalism. Regimes take ideological stances.
Christianity is more a faith than a religion.
Religions have great responsibilities. The path of dialogue needs to be undertaken.
Are you afraid of Islam?
I am not afraid of Islam, because I am not afraid of the experience of God. I’m afraid of fundamentalism, not of Muslims.
Tomorrow the Pope will meet with the presidency of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference to address a crisis to which a solution is yet to be found…
It’s hard to find a common ground. There appear to be no open tables for political dialogue. There is food and medicine shortage in the Country, the population’s suffering is increasing. The population at large is demanding significant changes. However, the chosen path must be one of democracy and pace. The majority of the population wants a peaceful resolution. But the human costs of this process are too high.
The government must listen to the people’s cries. It’s necessary to reach an agreement. We don’t know how much time will be needed in Venezuela to reconcile the population and heal these self-inflicted wounds.