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Freelance journalist currently based in Berlin, chronicling the effects of populism on elections in Europe. Former Washington-based political reporter for CBS News, Politico and National Journal.
Politics often creates strange bedfellows — and just as often causes surprising breakdowns in previously rock-solid alliances. That's especially true in today's political environment, where the rise of populist parties has scrambled many traditional assumptions about who voters support and why.
These changing alliances are why this piece from Politico Europe is so interesting: in Italy, the issue of migration is causing some Italian Catholics to turn away from Pope Francis and toward Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (at least politically). Salvini's and Pope Francis's respective views on the refugee crisis couldn't be more different: Salvini, of course, has led the charge against allowing further arrivals in Italy, even turning away boats of refugees before they can dock on Italian shores. Pope Francis, by contrast, has preached a welcoming attitude toward people in crisis. "At this moment, there’s a clear difference between an important part of Catholic opinion and the opinion of the Church hierarchy," Italian pollster Luca Comodo told Politico.
This shift helps explain why Salvini's Lega ("League") party has skyrocketed in public opinion polling, nearly doubling its support since the election just five months ago. Given the integral role of the Catholic Church and the Pope in Italian society, this dynamic will be one to watch as Salvini's influence in the country (and across Europe) grows.