Democracy is in bad health: Pope Francis

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Democracy is not in good shape, Pope Francis said on Sunday, urging politicians to shun populism and instead work together to build stronger societies and tackle voter apathy.

The 87-year-old pope was in the northeastern city of Trieste for a flying visit -- his fourth trip within Italy in just over two months as he prepares for a 12-day journey across Asia in September, the longest of his papacy.

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Speaking at an annual Roman Catholic convention on social affairs, the pope said many people felt excluded from democracy, with the poor and the weak left to fend for themselves.

“It is evident that democracy is not in good health in today’s world,” he said.

A healthy democracy should avoid “the dross of ideology” and move away from partisanship to instead embrace meaningful dialogue, he said.

“Let us not be deceived by easy solutions. Let us instead be passionate about the common good,” he said, highlighting the damage caused by political “corruption and illegality.”

He said it was important to teach children the importance of democratic values, warning that “indifference is a cancer of democracy.”

“I am concerned about the small number of people who went to vote. Why is it happening?” he asked.

The half-day visit to Trieste followed similar trips to Venice and Verona in April and May, and an address to Group of Seven leaders in southern Italy in June -- outings that have tested his stamina after repeated ailments over the past year that have sometimes forced him to curtail his workload.

As is now normal, the pontiff got around mainly by wheelchair and appeared in good form. In September he is due to fly over 32,000 km (19,900 miles) on his journey around Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-leste, also known as East Timor, and Singapore.

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