German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pope Francis discussed the effects of the coronavirus crisis pandemic on the world in a phone call on Thursday and agreed on the need to help poorer countries. The conversation was centred around the humanitarian and political view of the pandemic and the importance of cohesion and solidarity in Europe and the world, said Spokesman Steffen Seibert.
“Both favoured supporting in particular poorer countries in the coronavirus pandemic,” he added.
Over the centuries, popes, at least theoretically, have tried to remain above politics, and most have worked hard to maintain good relationships with emperors, kings, chancellors, presidents and prime ministers of all stripes, regardless of their outlook or party affiliation. Pope Francis and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have met three times before, in 2013, 2015 and 2016, but never when so much about the future order of both Europe and the wider world seemed so up for grabs, or when Germany’s role in that new world order seemed so potentially robust.
While Merkel can offer Francis real-world political support for some of his highest social priorities, Francis’s wide popularity across Europe could also mean that his implicit backing for her de facto new role as the leader of Western liberal democracies could be important, especially in Europe’s Catholic southern belt formed by Spain, Portugal and Italy. Whether Francis and Merkel will forge a strategic partnership remains to be seen, but the mere possibility in a moment in which so much seems undecided lends their meeting on Saturday a sense of drama.