Pope Francis weighs in to refugee debate
The Pope has called for a bold and creative strategy to deal with global migration, insisting that Europe has the means and “moral responsibility” to welcome refugees without sacrificing its security or culture.
In a speech to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, Pope Francis criticised the distinction made between refugees fleeing persecution and migrants fleeing poverty, saying both deserve international protection.
“Human history has been marked by great waves of migration, and that humanity today must not let security fears replace the principles of respecting the dignity of others,” he said.
“Europe has the means to defend the centrality of the human person and to find the right balance between its twofold moral responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants,” Pope Francis said.
He called for a frank and respectful dialogue to begin among countries of migrants’ origin, transit and reception “so that with greater boldness and creativity, new and sustainable solutions can be sought”.
Francis has made migration a top priority.
His first trip outside Rome as pope was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he celebrated mass in honour of the thousands of people who have died crossing the Mediterranean.
During the mass, he denounced the “globalization of indifference” that the world had shown to people fleeing their homes for better lives abroad.
On subsequent trips, Francis has visited refugee camps. Closer to home, he has opened the Vatican’s doors to two refugee families and called on parishes around the world to do the same.
Francis devoted nearly his entire speech last month to the issue, showing the importance it has in the Holy See’s foreign policy under the first Latin American pope, who ministered to Paraguayan migrants in the slums of Buenos Aires before his election.
In his speech, Francis acknowledged fears about security in the wake of extremist attacks in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. But he said those fears should not result in Europe losing its values of solidarity and humanity.
“Human history is made up of countless migrations, sometimes out of an awareness of the right to choose freely, and often dictated by external circumstances,” the Pope said.
Citing Biblical accounts, Francis said today’s migrants are “possessed of the same determination which Moses had to reach a land flowing with milk and honey”.
Last year, during an address to the US House of Representatives and the Senate, the Pope said the solution to the refugee crisis is for other countries to follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
His mention of the Golden Rule earned a standing ovation.
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War,” he said.
“This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?” the Pope told Congress.
He went on to call for people to see refugees and other immigrants as human beings in need of compassion, rather than focus on the resources it would take to help them.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist