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Pope Francis gives a speech in Bratislava, Slovakia. Photo: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Pope Francis warned against using the cross as a symbol for partisan means on Tuesday during his trip to Slovakia, saying it shouldn't be reduced to a political or status symbol, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Pope Francis has a habit of speaking more critically about a country after he has left it, the Times notes. The remarks, said in Slovakia, come days after his visit to Hungary, where several political parties have crosses on their party flags.

  • Hungary's strongman President Viktor Orban has also pushed Christianity as a basis for his policies, which are hallmarked by nationalism and fierce opposition to immigration.

Other political parties in Europe — including far-right ones — also employ crosses in their flags and symbols as well.

What he's saying: "The cross is not a flag to wave, but the pure source of a new way of living," the pope said, per Reuters, adding that a Christian, "views no one as an enemy, but everyone as a brother or sister."

  • The pope added that many avowed Christians wear crosses or have them in their home, despite not having a strong relationship with Jesus.
  • "What good is this, unless we stop to look at the crucified Jesus and open our hearts to him," he said. "Let us not reduce the cross to an object of devotion, much less to a political symbol, to a sign of religious and social status."

Go deeper

Pope Francis condemns politics in Biden Communion debate

Photo: Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Catholic bishops should not let politics influence pastoral decisions in an apparent criticism of clergy members who want to prevent pro-choice politicians from receiving Communion, AP reports.

Why it matters: President Biden's support for abortion rights has divided Catholics in the U.S. over whether he and other pro-choice politicians should be denied Communion.

Mike Allen, author of AM
12 mins ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.