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U.S. far-right site Breitbart talks of foray into Europe, Trump's possible visit with pope

Thomas Williams, Breitbart News Rome bureau chief, is pictured here on Feb. 7, 2017, in Rome. (Mainichi)

ROME -- U.S. rightist news website Breitbart plans to expand into France and Germany in order to influence public opinion there, the site's Rome bureau chief said in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

    Breitbart News was formerly headed by Steve Bannon, now U.S. President Donald Trump's chief strategist and senior adviser, and is considered a leader in the so-called "alt-right" movement, which upholds white supremacy and other rightist ideologies.

    Thomas Williams, Breitbart's 54-year-old Rome correspondent and a close Bannon associate, told the Mainichi Shimbun that there were two main objectives to the site's foray into the European market. One was to cover the rise of populism on the ground, and the second, to influence public opinion in European countries. In addition to the English version of the website that already exists, Breitbart has been deliberating mid- to long-term plans to publish articles in French and German.

    Breitbart News Network already has bureaus in London and Jerusalem, but it is now interviewing correspondent candidates for the site's future bureaus in France and Germany. The company's hopes to open their new bureaus before the French presidential election from April to May did not pan out, and it will likely take six to eight months before the bureaus can be launched. Williams, meanwhile, has been working as Breitbart's Rome correspondent out of his home since 2014.

    Shortly after he became the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said he wanted a "poor Church, for the poor." As a champion for the most vulnerable people in society, his views regarding immigration policy and support for refugees were close to those held by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Without mentioning Trump by name or his "Mexican wall," in February 2016, Pope Francis said, "I appeal not to create walls but to build bridges. To not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good, the offence with forgiveness. A Christian would never say 'you will pay for that.' Never." Since Trump's inauguration, however, Pope Francis has taken a wait-and-see approach.

    "I think he has avoided any kind of direct criticism ... Very prudent," William said of the pope.

    When the Mainichi contacted the Vatican about a possible meeting between President Trump and Pope Francis at the Vatican in late May, when Trump attends the G7 Summit in Italy, a spokesperson said, "We can't confirm that. The White House has only talked about Taormina so far. Not about Rome."

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