The "global left" is looking to 80-year-old Pope Francis for leadership, but his progressive political leanings could alienate more conservative Catholics in the United States and elsewhere, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"Pope Francis really inspires a lot of people to want to fight," Florida minimum-wage activist Bleu Rainer told the Journal. "I'm pretty sure if he weren't the face of the Catholic Church, he'd be out in the street with us. He reinforces our issues and makes them moral issues."
Pope Francis has taken strong stands on migration, climate change, economic equality and the rights of indigenous peoples — and he has addressed three consecutive annual meetings of "popular movements," including U.S. groups like Black Lives Matter, the Journal reported.
The Vatican is co-sponsoring another such a meeting in California in February, focused on poverty, migration and racial justice, though the pope isn't expected to attend, the Journal reported.
But critics say Pope Francis' leftist leanings risk alienating more conservative Catholics —including the estimated more than half of Catholic voters who chose Donald Trump in the election, the Journal reported.
"The global left clearly see an opportunity to appropriate the prestige of the papacy for their causes," Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, a Michigan-based think tank with a religious, free-market approach, told the Journal.
"That introduces polarization in the church about issues that Catholics are free to disagree about."
The pope's views also have allied him with groups that oppose some of the church's moral teachings — including abortion and artificial birth control — but Pope Francis has played down questions of sexual and medical ethics, emphasizing shared goals, the Journal reported.
According to Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, an official in the Vatican office on social-justice concerns, the pope's political relationships lean left "not because he’s a Marxist or because he is a leftist, but because [such groups] represent . . . the wounds of society."
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