The Vatican said Wednesday it is concerned about President Donald Trump’s executive order regarding refugees and immigration, its first public comment on the matter as impacts of the order continue to reverberate around the globe.
In an interview with an Italian Catholic television station, Vatican Deputy Secretary of State Archbishop Angelo Becciu said Trump’s action was against what the Catholic Church stood for.
“Certainly there is worry because we are messengers of another culture, of that openness,” Becciu said. “Pope Francis, in fact, insists on the ability to integrate those who arrive in our societies and cultures.”
Trump signed the executive order last Friday, which suspends the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely as part of a move the administration says is necessary for national security until the travelers are subjected to a process of “extreme vetting.”
The current refugee vetting process can take 18 months to more than two years, and involves multiple in-person interviews with various U.S. departments as well as additional checks like health screenings. It is the most comprehensive security procedure for any class of traveler seeking entry into the country.
Francis has long been an advocate for refugees, frequently speaking out in favor of the world’s most vulnerable. During his visit to Washington D..C in 2015, Francis told a joint meeting of Congress that they have an obligation to see those fleeing persecution as fellow human beings.
“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” Francis, who is from Argentina, told the assembled lawmakers. “I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”
The Vatican newspaper published an editorial Wednesday arguing that “closing doors to immigrants means depriving the country of potentially important resources.”
During the presidential campaign, Francis drew sharp rebuke from Trump when the pope publicly criticized the Republican candidate’s proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
American Catholics have also spoke out to reject Trump’s refugee suspension and travel ban, including a provision that would provide preferential treatment for Christian refugees.
“We also express our firm resolution that the order's stated preference for ‘religious minorities’ should be applied to protect not only Christians where they are a minority, but all religious minorities who suffer persecution, which includes Yazidis, Shia Muslims in majority Sunni areas, and vice versa,” said a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
While almost 71 percent of the U.S. population is Christian, only 32 percent of Americans say it is very important for someone to be Christian in order to be truly American, according to a Pew Research Center study.