Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Francis has said it is too early to pass judgment on U.S. President Donald Trump, and urged people to wait before criticizing him. At the same time, he also pointed out that populist leaders of the past, like Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler, were also supported by the people.
Francis held an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais on Friday, the day of Trump's inauguration, where he insisted that it would be "reckless" to judge America's new leader before he has been given the time to leave his mark.
The pontiff was apparently pressed by reporters to point out if there is anything that Trump has said that really worries him, to which Francis responded: "I'm waiting. God waited so long for me, with all my sins."
"I think that we must wait and see. I don't like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely," the pope said, according to a translation from Spanish by Reuters.
"We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion. But being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise. It would be like prophets predicting calamities," he said.
Francis agreed, however, that the apparent rise of populist figures in the United States and Europe could be a cause for concern, as it capitalizes on the fear of an uncertain future.
"Crises provoke fear, alarm," the pontiff said.
"In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933 ... A people that was immersed in a crisis, that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened," he added.
"Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people."
Unlike Trump, Hitler didn't assume power by winning an election. Hitler lost a presidential election in 1932, with 36.8 percent of the vote, but in 1933 he was appointed chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg.
The Catholic leader alluded to some of Trump's rhetoric about building a wall on the border with Mexico when he said that at times of crisis, people start looking "for a savior who gives us back our identity and lets us defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other peoples who may rob us of our identity."
Francis called such mindset a "very serious thing."
Trump and Francis clashed on the issue of immigration and wall building early last year, when the pope asserted that "a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."
Trump in turn slammed the pope in February during a campaign rally in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where he insisted that he is indeed a Christian, and that Francis' comments were "disgraceful."
"For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. I'm proud to be a Christian and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened unlike what is happening now with our current president," Trump added at the time, referring to former President Barack Obama.
"No leader, especially a religious leader should have the right to question another man's religion or faith, especially when they feed all sorts of false information into it," he added.