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As Ireland Joins Europe’s Sprint From Catholic Fold, Francis Looks South

Anger toward Francis sometimes rises to the surface.

Monsignor Edward Staniek, a prominent Polish priest who is intent on protecting traditional Catholic values from secularization, said earlier this year that he prayed Francis would agree with his thinking on the problem or have “a quick passage to the house of the Father.”

In Hungary, many church officials have allied with the anti-immigrant prime minister, Viktor Orban, who comes from a Protestant and was once ambivalent about religion but who now says, “European identity is rooted in Christianity.”

He considers his fence against migrants a defense of Western civilization, and Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo, the church’s top official in southern Hungary, apparently agrees, having said that the pope doesn’t understand the situation and that Hungary is under invasion.

Populists in Italy have said Francis is essentially abandoning the fight for Europe’s Christian identity. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrants League party, has talked about how Pope Benedict understood the needs of European nations to keep their religious and cultural identity in the face of Muslim migration.

If the landslide vote in Ireland bothered Francis, he didn’t show it on Sunday afternoon. He smiled broadly as he blessed tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square and urged them to pray for Africa.

Kilvia Passos, 47, cheered the pope as she held a flag of her native Brazil, the country with the world’s largest Catholic population. She said despite the growing competition of evangelicals there, the country still felt deeply Catholic.

But so, until a few decades ago, did Ireland and the rest of Europe.

“We’re worried about what’s happening here,” she said.

Source: NYT > World

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