Pope Francis has said that politicians who target gay people remind him of Hitler.
In a speech last week at an international conference on criminal law, the leader of the Catholic Church noted the recent “resurgence of symbols typical of Nazism,” NBC News reports.
“I must confess to you that when I hear a speech [by] someone responsible for order or for a government, I think of speeches by Hitler in 1934, 1936,” Francis said.
“With the persecution of Jews, gypsies, and people with homosexual tendencies, today these actions are typical [and] represent ‘par excellence’ a culture of waste and hate,” he continued. “That is what was done in those days and today it is happening again.”
Francis didn’t specifically name any politicians in his remarks, which reportedly departed from his prepared address.
But a number of countries and political leaders have increasingly targeted the LGBTQ community, including Brunei, which recently announced that it would implement the death penalty for homosexuality — though international outcry forced the country to declare a moratorium on actually enacting the punishment.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also sparked fear and concern among LGBTQ people when he took office at the start of this year, given his long history of homophobic remarks.
In May, Bolsonaro was forced to cancel a planned trip to the United States amid outcry over his anti-gay views and record as president.
And this month, Saudi Arabia branded homosexuality a form of “extremism,” despite the country already having one of the worst LGBTQ records in the world and the death penalty for both homosexuality and transgender people.
Even in the U.S., LGBTQ people have increasingly seen their rights under attack from the Trump administration, which has sought to rollback protections in healthcare and employment, and allow religious-based discrimination nationwide.
And transgender issues — particularly transgender athletes — are being increasingly used as wedge issues by Republican politicians and organizations.
Speaking to NBC News, Christopher Pett, president of LGBTQ catholic organization DignityUSA, said Francis’ comments were “timely and relevant.”
Pett said that Francis should “continue to be a strong, morally just voice in support of all human rights, but especially those of LGBTQ people everywhere,” and that the Catholic Church should “challenge injustices perpetrated by government sanctioned violence against LGBTQ people.”
Earlier this year, Pope Francis said that those who discard gay people “don’t have a human heart,” while speaking to a gay British comedian, comments that surprised some given Francis’ somewhat mixed record on LGBTQ rights.
Last December, Francis said in an interview that the issue of gay clergy members “worries” him and is a “serious matter.”
Francis called “the issue of homosexuality” a “very serious matter,” and said that sexuality must be “adequately discerned” from prospective clergy candidates.
The Pontiff also said that it “seems that homosexuality is fashionable” in society, and “this mentality…affects the life of the Church.”
In May last year he told bishops to seek out and prevent gay priesthood applicants, telling them to “keep your eyes open” and “if in doubt, better not let them enter.”
Francis also condemned same-sex families at an event for Catholic families, saying same-sex couples did not deserve to have their families recognized by the Church.
“People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family [but] the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one,” he said.