Faith

Backlash After Pope’s Newest Migrant Comments

The pontiff argued that the rights of 'rejected strangers' actually trump national security

Pope Francis defended the dignity of migrants at the expense of the security of multiple nations around the world — noting that Jesus’ message is rooted in welcoming the “rejected strangers of every age.”

Francis’ politically pointed message on Monday came in concert with the announcement of the Catholic Church’s 2018 world refugee day, to be celebrated on January 14. It comes amid mounting anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and beyond, following waves of migrant arrivals and Islamic extremist attacks.

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In the message, Francis demanded governments welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants — despite many recent terror attacks in Europe by individuals from this same group.

He demanded a simplified process of granting humanitarian and temporary visas and rejected arbitrary and collective expulsions as “unsuitable.” He said the principle of ensuring each person’s dignity “obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security.”

Francis has made refugees a priority of his pontificate. His first trip outside Rome in 2013 was to the island of Lampedusa, ground zero in Europe’s migration crisis. He has repeatedly spoken out for migrants’ rights, demanded countries build “bridges, not walls,” and personally brought a dozen Syrian refugees back to Rome with him when he visited a Greek refugee camp in 2016.

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Ignoring critics who say his calls are unrealistic and naïve, Francis insisted in the new message that border guards must be trained to protect migrants and that each new arrival, regardless of legal status, must be guaranteed access to basic services beyond health care.

That extends to guaranteeing access to consulates and the justice system, and the ability to open a bank account and survive financially, he said.

Unaccompanied minors, he said, require even greater protection, including guaranteeing them citizenship and access to schooling, as well as foster programs rather than detention centers.

He called for policies that support family reunification, employment opportunities, and accelerated citizenship procedures to improve migrants’ abilities to integrate.

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His call was immediately rejected by the leader of Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party, which has opposed government proposals to change Italy’s law to accelerate citizenship for children born in Italy to non-Italians.

“If you want to do it in the Vatican, go ahead,” Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook. “But as a Catholic, I don’t think Italy can welcome and support the whole world.”

This Fox News piece is used by permission; the Associated Press contributed. 

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