Pope warns against populism and 'saviours' like Hitler as Trump sworn in

Pope Francis attends an audience with the Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings on Jan 9, 2017 in Vatican.
Pope Francis attends an audience with the Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings on Jan 9, 2017 in Vatican.PHOTO: EPA

MADRID (AFP) - Pope Francis on Saturday (Jan 21) warned against populism, saying it could lead to the election of "saviours" like Hitler.

In an hour-long interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais conducted as Donald Trump was being sworn in as US president, the pontiff also condemned the idea of using walls and barbed wire to keep out foreigners.

"Of course crises provoke fears and worries," he said but added that for him "the example of populism in the European sense of the word is Germany in 1933.

"Germany... was looking for a leader, someone who would give her back her identity and there was a little man named Adolf Hitler who said 'I can do it'."

"Hitler did not steal power," the pope said. "He was elected by his people and then he destroyed his people."

The Germans at that time also wanted to protect themselves with "walls and barbed wire so that others cannot take away their identity," he said.

"The case of Germany is classic," he said, adding that Hitler gave them a "deformed identity and we know what it produced."

Pope Francis however underscored that it was too early to pass judgement on Trump.

"Let's see. Let's see what he does and then we will evaluate," he said.