Pope’s views challenge international finance, says Grillo

Italian M5S leader and ex-comic says protest movement ‘on same wavelength’ as pontiff

Five Star Movement leader  Beppe Grillo  before a news conference for the foreign press in  Rome today. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo before a news conference for the foreign press in Rome today. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters


Beppe Grillo, the leader of Italy’s Five Star (M5S) protest movement, this morning said the radical thinking of Pope Francis represents a challenge to the international finance community.

Speaking to the resident foreign press corps in Rome, Grillo said he and his movement, which in last February’s elections picked up 25 per cent of the national vote, were “on the same wavelength” as Pope Francis, adding:

“Just as we represent a major challenge for the mainstream parties, so too does Pope Francis represent a major challenge for the world of international finance. They see him as a danger, a man like him who goes out amongst people, who talks to people, he has understood a lot...”

Mr Grillo, the ex-comic who leads the M5S movement from outside parliament, recalled that the M5S was founded four years ago on October 4th, the day that marks the feast day for Italy’s national saint.

He said the movement was created in a “Franciscan spirit” which meant it was more a community than a movement, a community which did not go looking for funds but one in which everyone helped one another.

Commenting on the hottest political question of the moment - namely the fact that newly elected Democratic Party (PD) leader, mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi, last Saturday met with tycoon Silvio Berlusconi to arrive at an agreement on electoral reform - Mr Grillo was unrestrained in his criticism, saying:

“Talking to Berlusconi about electoral reform is a bit like talking to [mafioso boss of bosses] Toto Riina about reforming the justice system... This is a case of two crooks meeting, behind everyone’s backs, to make a deal. At this stage, it is clear, Renzi is working for Berlusconi...”

As he often does, Mr Grillo argued that the M5S movement represented an anomaly which the media and other political parties struggled to understand. Repeating his oft-spoken threat to “send home” all the other parties, Mr Grillo said the logic behind the electoral reform proposal from Mr Renzi and Mr Berlusconi was an attempt to cut out the M5S.

He defended the movement’s decision not to ally itself with either the PDs or Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, arguing neither party could be trusted, adding: “We’re neither left nor right, we were elected to send these people home... This country is going down the tubes, democracy has disappeared...”

Asked about his frequent calls for Italy to drop out of the euro, Mr Grillo said perhaps the European Union should consider introducing a “two-speed Europe”, with those EU countries in difficulty such as Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy being placed in the slow lane.

He said it was important that member countries “regain their sovereignty and not just financial sovereignty”, arguing that EU diktats had greatly damaged Greece, a country where “nine out of 10 apartment buildings cannot afford to turn on their central heating this winter”.

As regards this spring’s European elections, Mr Grillo said his movement would run alone in Italy’s five constituencies. He did not rule out agreements with other member country parties after the elections, saying: “You people are either stupid or you do not want to understand. I have no mandate to dictate anything to anyone, perhaps these folks [M5S parliamentarians] have that mandate, but what I would like to do is talk, dialogue with people about possible changes, in Italy and in Europe...”