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Pope calls on politicians not to 'sow hate'

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ABOARD PAPAL PLANE (AFP)

Pope Francis said Sunday politicians should "never sow hatred and fear" in an answer to a question about Matteo Salvini, Italy's strongman and leader of the far-right.

The pontiff told journalists on the return leg of a three-day trip to Romania that it would be "very unwise" of him to express an opinion on the deputy prime minister and interior minister, who heads the anti-immigrant League party.

And he insisted the reason he had not received Salvini -- who regularly waves aloft a Catholic rosary at his rallies -- was simply because the minister had not requested a private audience.

"I pray for all, for Italians to move forward, for them to unite," he said, days after Italy's far-right parties won over 40 percent in the European elections, largely thanks to an "Italians First", anti-migrant message.

"We must help politicians to be honest... Never should a politician sow hatred and fear, never," he said.

Francis also repeated his plea for Europe "to overcome divisions and borders".

"We see borders in Europe and they do no good. Please do not let Europe be defeated by pessimism or ideologies.

"Europe is being attacked not by guns or bombs, but by ideologies," he said.

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