Pope Francis said Christians are responsible for integrating migrants into their communities, his latest plea to a world he sees as largely ignoring the needs of some of the most vulnerable.
Francis, speaking to the International Forum on Migration and Peace in Rome on Tuesday, said Christians are responsible for welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants into their communities. He said they must not reject those who need help as “unworthy” of attention.
“Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centredness and amplified by populist rhetoric, what is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors,” Francis said. “For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organisations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels.”
Francis has frequently decried growing populist rhetoric across the globe, movements which propelled President Donald Trump to power and challenge established order in European countries. Last month, the pope warned that previous populist movements allowed for the creation of people like Adolf Hitler.
“The most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933. After the crisis of 1930, Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler,” Francis said in a January interview with a Spanish newspaper. “Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.”
Although Francis has previously said that people who speak about building walls are “not Christian” — a direct jab at Trump — he on Tuesday avoided directly criticizing the president.
“In the face of tragedies which take the lives of so many migrants and refugees – conflicts, persecutions, forms of abuse, violence, death – expressions of empathy and compassion cannot help but spontaneously well-up,” Francis said Tuesday. “Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs.”
People of faith have long been involved in efforts to aid refugees and immigrants in the U.S., with six of the nine U.S. refugee resettlement agencies being faith based. Those groups have spoken out against Trump’s executive order suspending the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, arguing their faith requires them to aid the people the president is trying to keep out.
Trump plans to submit a new executive order this week to replace the original after losses in court found it unconstitutional.