Pope backs rights of migrants
Pope Francis has hit out at rising nationalism in Europe, saying it is leading to the deaths of thousands of migrants.
The Pope condemned what he called “belligerent nationalism” and called for a concerted European-wide response to migration to prevent the Mediterranean Sea from becoming “the graveyard of dignity”.
Thousands of people have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in recent years.
The Pope was speaking on a recent trip to Marseilles, a French port that for centuries has been a crossroads of trade, culture and religion.
He said migrants who risked drowning at sea must be rescued as part of “a duty of humanity” and that people and nations who block rescues are committing “gestures of hate”.
In a speech, Pope Francis said: “There is a cry of pain that resonates most of all, and it is turning the Mediterranean, the ‘mare nostrum’, from the cradle of civilization into the ‘mare mortuum’, the graveyard of dignity: it is the stifled cry of migrant brothers and sisters,” he said, using Latin terms meaning “our sea” and “sea of death”.
French President Emmanuel Macron and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde attended a mass conducted by the Pope for 50,000 people who packed Marseilles’ Velodrome stadium.
Pope Francis called on people to “hear the cries of pain” rising from migrants seeking a better life.
“How greatly we need this at the present juncture, when antiquated and belligerent nationalisms want to make the dream of the community of nations fade!” he said. He did not name any countries,” he said.
Governments in several European countries, including Italy, Hungary, and Poland, are now led by nationalist-leaning leaders who are critical of immigration.
Pope Francis criticised people who characterise migration as an “invasion,” saying it is a long-term issue that would have to be met with compassion.
He called for an expansion of legal paths to immigration with an emphasis on accepting those fleeing war, hunger and poverty, rather than on “preservation of one’s own wellbeing”.
According to the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, about 178,500 migrants have arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean this year, while about 2,500 died or went missing.
Pope Francis has previously called for migrants to be shared across the 27 EU countries.
He has called their exclusion “scandalous, disgusting and sinful”, making him unpopular with right wing politicians.