Responding to a mini-fracas set off by his recent declaration that he considers it “an honor when Americans are attacking me,” Pope Francis told reporters during an inflight news conference Tuesday that the U.S. is not his only source of heartburn.
“Criticism comes not only from the Americans, they’re coming from all over,” Francis said.
The comment got me thinking: If we take the U.S. off the table, what are the other countries where criticism of this pope seems most robust?
Let’s stipulate two points at the outset.
First, Francis hardly is the first pope to generate controversy, so the mere fact of blowback is both inevitable and non-probative. In fact, resistance is usually a token of relevance. If people didn’t think Francis is making a difference, they wouldn’t bother voicing a reaction.
Second, based on the usual measures – poll numbers, crowd size, media coverage, and so on – Francis remains probably the most beloved leader on the global stage today. Polls also show he commands the support of overwhelming majorities of Catholics, even in countries where he sometimes draws fire.
Herewith, a rundown of the Top Five countries other than the U.S. where this pope seems to bring things to a boil.
Africa tends to be a mixed bag for Francis. The African Church is dynamic, extremely loyal to the papacy, and it resonates with the anti-corruption and social justice message of a “third world” pope. Yet it also tends to be conservative on matters of faith and morals, leery of some of the winds blowing today.
Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, is a good example.
A year after Francis issued his cautious opening to Communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church in Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja declared that “in a world going down the drain through widespread moral laxity, the Church of God cannot abdicate her responsibility to uphold the high standards of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Many Nigerian clergy also have complained about an overly irenic approach to Islam under Francis, wishing he’d be more forceful about threats to Christians from both Boko Haram and largely Muslim Fulani tribesmen.
There’s also a local issue: A standoff in Ahiara, where clergy rejected a new bishop on ethnic grounds and Francis suspended priests who wouldn’t pledge obedience, only to back down and remove the bishop. Some Nigerians believe that’s encouraged further defiance.
Read more at Crux