Pope Francis warned against attempts to cancel culture, decrying ‘one-track thinking’ which he said attempts to deny or rewrite history according to today’s standards.
Francis made his comments in an address to diplomats, the main thrust of which was the condemnation of ‘baseless’ ideological misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and the pandemic.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics said cancel culture amounted to ‘ideological colonisation’ and ‘leaves no space for freedom of expression’.
It is the second time in recent weeks that the Pope has criticised the culture wars.
Last month, the Vatican expressed concern over a draft European Union communications manual that suggested not using the term Christmas and the use of the term human-induced instead of man-made.
The manual, which the Vatican saw as an attempt to cancel Europe’s Christian roots, was later withdrawn for revision.
Pictured: Pope Francis warned against attempts to cancel culture, decrying ‘one-track thinking’ which he said attempts to deny or rewrite history according to today’s standards
In his remarks on Monday, Francis warned of ‘a form of ideological colonisation, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions’.
He used the two words in English in the midst of a long speech in Italian.
The ‘cancel culture’ controversy is particularly sharp in English-speaking countries, especially in Britain where debate has raged over the country’s imperialistic history.
Pro-active campaigns have seen the removal of several statues depicting historic figures who had a hand in the slave trade, such as Edward Colston.
Colston, a 17th Century merchant, made a fortune trading slaves but went on to donate so much money to philanthropic works in Bristol that his name appeared throughout the city on streets, schools and a concert hall.
His statue was toppled by a crowd amid growing tensions sparked by global outcry following the death of George Floyd in the US.
The ‘cancel culture’ controversy is particularly sharp in English-speaking countries, especially in Britain where debate has raged over the country’s imperialistic history. Pictured: Activists throw the statue of Edward Colston, who had links to slavery, into the river in Bristol in 2020
Floyd was killed when white police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck despite his desperate pleas that he ‘can’t breathe’. He passed out and later died in Minneapolis on May 25.
His death is seen as a symbol of systemic police brutality against African-Americans sparking outrage and largely-peaceful protests first across the US before quickly spreading worldwide.
Other figures targeted in the UK include Cecil Rhodes, a statue of whom campaigners are trying to have removed from Oriel College at Oxford University.
Last year, Guy’s Hospital in London said it will move the statue of founder Thomas Guy to a less prominent position because of his ties to the slave trade.
Meanwhile, the National Trust published a research project which claimed to have found links to slavery and colonialism for 93 of its properties, including Chartwell – the former home of Winston Churchill – and Rudyard Kipling’s home.
Pope Francis said the tendency, though, risked cancelling identity ‘under the guise of defending diversity’, adding that a kind of ‘one-track thinking’ is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of present-day categories.
Cecil Rhodes is another figure in British history who has been repeatedly targeted as a result of cancel culture. Pictured: Oriel Colleges statue of Cecil Rhodes at the University of Oxford
Besides the removal of statues, some activists have also demanded changing the names of institutions such as schools and hospitals named after the historical figures, saying they reflect the impact of Britain’s colonialist history.
While the pope did not mention any specific cancel culture examples, he said any historical situation must be interpreted in the context of its times and not by today’s standards.
Last month, Pope Francis compared the EU to a ‘Nazi dictatorship’ for trying to impose woke rules on language and ban using the word Christmas.
The pope, 84, warned the bloc not to ‘take the path of ideological colonisation’ as he returned from Greece after a four-day trip.
The EU was accused of trying to ‘cancel Christmas’ after telling staff to avoid the word in favour of ‘holiday period’ because it could be offensive to non-Christians.
Eurocrats published the rule months ago as part of a guide on ‘inclusive communication’, details of which leaked leading to a furious backlash.
Other suggestions in the book included replacing Christian names such as Mary and John with ‘international’ names such as Malika and Julio when using them in generic examples, and swapping the word ‘man-made’ for ‘human-induced’.
The pontiff said the language diktats, which the European Commissioner for Equality admitted ‘clearly needed more work’, and said trying to ban the term Christmas amounted to ‘a fad, watered-down secularism’.
He said: ‘It is something that throughout history has not worked. In history, many dictatorships have tried to do these things. I’m thinking of Napoleon, the Nazi dictatorship, the Communist one.
He added that the EU is ‘necessary’ but it needs to avoid stirring up divisions among its member states.