Pope derides anti-mask protesters

Pope Francis railed against those who claim "that being forced to wear a mask is an unwarranted imposition by the state". PHOTO: AFP

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis took aim Monday (Nov 23) at protests against coronavirus restrictions, contrasting them with the "healthy indignation" seen in the global demonstrations against racism after the death of George Floyd.

"Some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions - as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!" he wrote in a new book.

In Let Us Dream, derived from conversations with his British biographer Austen Ivereigh, he railed against those who claim "that being forced to wear a mask is an unwarranted imposition by the state".

"You'll never find such people protesting the death of George Floyd, or joining a demonstration because there are shantytowns where children lack water or education, or because there are whole families who have lost their income," he said.

He added: "On such matters they would never protest; they are incapable of moving outside of their own little world of interests."

The book, sub-titled A Path to a Better Future, is largely centred on his response to the coronavirus crisis.

"With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives," the pope said.

However, he added that some have put the economy before public health, saying: "Those governments have mortgaged their people."

The death in police custody of Floyd a 44-year-old African-American man, triggered a wave of anti-racism protests in the United States and around the world.

The pope again condemned his "horrendous" death and hailed how "many people who otherwise did not know each other took to the streets to protest, united by a healthy indignation".

However, he cautioned against pulling down historical statues, a by-product of some of the protests, describing it as "amputating history".

"A free people is a people that remembers, is able to own its history rather than deny it, and learns its best lessons," he said.

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