In December, if they accept the invitation of the President of France, leaders of 100 countries will descend on Paris to ramp up the global fight against climate change. But in a striking omission, one major name is not on the list: U.S. President Donald Trump. When TIME sat down with President Emmanuel Macron in the Élysée Palace on Nov. 7, he said the U.S. leader would not be among the guests at his Dec. 12 summit, “except if you get this big announcement coming from himself that he has decided to join the club.”
The “club,” of course, comprises every other country on the planet, now that even Syria has pledged to join the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was negotiated in the French capital in 2015 to drastically rein in carbon emissions and stave off disastrous global warming. Since Trump alone has rejected the agreement and vowed to cancel the U.S.’s climate commitments, much of the responsibility for leading this club has fallen to an erudite young Frenchman who has only just begun his career as an elected politician.
Climate change is the most global of all the world’s problems, but it is hardly the only one: there are nuclear threats, far-right nationalism, jihadi terrorism and technological disruption. For all those, too, the French President is eager to discuss what his country can offer. And although he says he’s not seeking to become the leader of the free world, he can sound like he is.“Today, de facto, we are part of the global leadership on climate change,” he says, speaking in his excellent English, a very rare thing for French leaders. “I want us to be part of the global leadership on the economy and on finance, on the digital environment. I think we have a very important leadership to play on multilateralism.”
Edging into the vacuum is Macron, 39, a passionate globalist deeply read in history and philosophy, whose victory formed a counternarrative to the assumption that, in the shadow of Brexit and Trump, the E.U. would fall to right-wing nationalists.
The very fact that such a role is even possible for Macron was thought exceedingly unlikely just 18 months ago, when he was the Economy Minister with not much more than ambition to his name. Shockingly young in a land of gray-haired political grandees, Macron nonetheless rose to the top in less than a year. He quit the government in August and formed his own movement, En Marche! (On the Move), to replace President François Hollande, who declined to run again as his popularity flatlined. Macron campaigned on an ambitious message no French citizen had heard in generations: forging an entirely new system for a modern France.
While some remain unconvinced, to judge by the leaders drawn to the Élysée to meet Macron, there is a sense of something dynamic happening in France. It’s evident from the celebrities who have visited (Bono and Rihanna each made the trip) and from the buzz produced by constant motion.
He tells TIME he wanted to place France, as one of the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members, in a leading role in the organization. “This country’s history is directly linked with multilateralism and the checks and balances of our global organization.”
Days later Macron delivered a much longer speech in Paris, giving a detailed blueprint for overhauling the entire E.U. in a live televised address. Macron’s aides insist that he did not intend to step into the role as Europe’s leader. Yet the timing led some to draw that conclusion: that same day, Merkel was locked in coalition talks in Berlin, after failing to win an outright majority in elections held just days before. Macron appeared to be striding into the breach.
The speech was classic Macron. Appealing to a grand narrative, he cut through the anxiety and shock over Brexit and the wave of anti-E.U. populist sentiment. He told Europeans, raised in comfortable democracies, that they were forgetting the horrors of the last century, when two world wars devastated the Continent and led to the formation of the E.U.
Then he listed bold proposals for dramatically closer ties between the 27 E.U. countries after Britain leaves in 2019: a joint military force, an E.U. intelligence service, a Europe-wide asylum process for refugees and an E.U. financial transaction tax. “If you don’t put on the table a new ambition, you leave the floor to those who doubt Europe,” he says of his lofty proposals. “That’s how I defeated Marine Le Pen. And that’s why my strong recommendation to the others in Europe is to say, Don’t be shy. If you are shy about Europe, you will be killed by the extremes.”
To Macron, the project to unite Europe is proof that something positive can emerge from the darkest nationalist turmoil. “The whole story of Europe is about a series of wars, trying to dominate the others,” he says. Since the European Union, there has been “freedom and peace, allowing prosperity,” he says. To Macron, that notion seems deeply personal. Born into a generation that has always known a borderless E.U., his relative youth gives him a particular perspective. “Our generation will not have the luxury just to manage Europe,” he says. “We will have to refound it.”
It could take years before the world knows the full scope of Emmanuel Macron.
But if Macron is proved right, France could emerge as a far more important global power than it has been in decades. If he wins re-election in 2022, after his first five-year term as President, he would leave the Élysée Palace in 2027 at a sprightly 49 years of age—with plenty of time to form a radically different post-presidential role for himself. That is a long way in a future that remains shrouded in the mists. But if Macron pulls off his transformation at home, the ambitions he has to change the world—not just France—could be within reach. That club, after all, has an opening for a leader. •
Christians asking is the pope still Catholic?
In a recent address, Pope Francis declared “everything will be saved”upon Christ’s return.
“The thought that at the end of our history there will be merciful Jesus suffices in order to have faith and not to curse life,” the pope said. “Everything will be saved. Everything.”
Instead, the souls dominated by evil will “cease to exist.” The pope has also been accused of even warping the words of Scripture to make God appear less judgmental.
Father Thomas Weinandy, a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, accused Francis of presiding over “a chronic confusion” in a letter.
The pope’s reign has long been marked by attacks on conservatives both within the church and the larger Christian community. Many Christian leaders are becoming fed up.
“This man has turned the papacy into a social justice organization that seems far more concerned with global warming and poverty than the proclamation of the gospel,” said Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries.
“Catholics should be very concerned. Pope Francis is a type of the false prophet who will reign with the antichrist. I am not saying he is the false prophet, but he has characteristics that would suggest a man just like him could step into that role. If I were a Catholic, I would be looking either for another pope or another faith such as Protestantism. Heaven and hell represent eternal issues that are sacred and no human being should be trying to alter them.”
“From a biblical perspective, there never has been a purgatory, so that is a strictly Catholic issue,” said Joseph Farah, author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.” “Unfortunately, what the pope said about heaven and hell sounds a lot like universalism. That’s the conclusion most would derive from his statement, ‘At the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus. … everything will be saved. Everything.’ Though he suggested there is a hell for ‘cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort.’ It’s a little confusing – and ambiguous. This is why the unchanging Word of God in the Bible needs to be our one true guide.”
Many of the classic conservative commentaries even speak of the ‘Romanish’ or ‘Papal’ system as being at least a part of the last days ‘antichrist’ system. That point is debated among scholars of today; however, it’s hard to imagine how the largest ‘sect’ of Christianity on the planet can dive off into such unbiblical teachings as espoused by Pope Francis without being at least heavily influenced by the spirit of antichrist.
“These newest teachings of the pope are decidedly of the universalism ilk of heresy. Interestingly, many prophetic writers of the past predicted that the Roman Catholic system would eventually plunge all the way down this hill. It certainly seems that Pope Francis is shoving the whole thing off the cliff with this newest round of ‘instruction’ from the papal offices.”