THE VATICAN – Greece’s surging opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, who said he’s not religious, met Pope Francis as the two reportedly talked about the role of banks in Greece’s crisis.
The two discussed Greece’s economic crisis, illegal immigration invasion, and the need for politics to re-inspire people as well as the need for world peace, the Athens News Agency reported.
“The Left and the Christian Church have different starting points but meet at the same core values: solidarity, love for the fellow-men, social justice and our wish for world peace,” Tsipras said after the meeting.
The SYRIZA leader also described Greece’s current situation to the Pope and spoke of a country that keeps sinking deeper in the crisis, which has now become a humanitarian one and pointed out that “we need the support of wider forces across Europe” to terminate this policy, ANA said.
“Today I had the opportunity to discuss the economic crisis with Pope Francis … to discuss the need for politics to re-inspire people to collective values that are universal and effective against today’s dominant material values of profit and consumption,” he said.
“We discussed the need for peace to return to the world, to terminate war interventions, the need to restore the value of solidarity, to talk on the need for people to be above profits. We asked him to continue fighting against poverty, talking about people’s dignity and the structural cause of poverty,” he added.
The meeting reportedly lasted 45 minutes and the Pope was said to have told Tsipras, “People should be above markets and profits,” music to the SYRIZA leader’s ears as he is opposed to the harsh austerity measures the coalition government led by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras has imposed on orders of international lenders to benefit banks.
Speaking to the press following the meeting, Tsipras noted that the two leaders had discussed the financial crisis, which they agreed was not solely economic, but a crisis of values.
Tsipras said he urged the Pope to take an initiative with regard to continuous conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine. He said the two also discussed the matter of immigration and changes in European policy regarding this issue, Kathimerini said.
The SYRIZA chief also noted that he described to the Pope the situation in Greece following four years of austerity. “I explained to him that was done was to save the banks, not the people,” Tsipras said.
According to Tsipras, the two leaders agreed that the dialogue between the Left and the Church should continue as the two sides share common values, including social justice and world peace.
Tsipras called for closer ties between the European Left and the Christian Church.
“We come from different ideological starting points but we believe that we intersect on common values such as solidarity, love for one’s fellow human being, social justice and our anxiousness for world peace,” the leftist leader said following a brief unofficial meeting with the Catholic Pontiff.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi downplayed the meeting between the Pope and Tsipras as “private” and of no “political significance,” noting that the conversation focused on “human and social issues,” according to German news agency DPA.
Tsipras was accompanied on his visit by former Austrian Communist Party leader Walter Beier, who, according to DPA, quoted the Pope as saying, “It is scandalous that saving banks is more important than saving people.”