Pope Francis says bridges are better than walls when it comes to dealing with conflicts between nations, especially regarding Europe’s migrant crisis.
The Pope spent 45 minutes speaking with the international media aboard the American Airlines flight that carried him back to Rome after his historic visit to Cuba and the United States, and answered a series of questions on everything from women’s ordination to religious freedom.
A German journalist asked the Pope about the migrant crisis in Europe, and specifically the Hungarian project of a 100-mile, barbed-wire border fence with Serbia.
“You know what happens to all walls,” Francis said. “All of them. All walls fall. Today, tomorrow or in 100 years, they will fall.”
“This is not a solution. The wall isn’t a solution. At this moment, Europe is in trouble, it’s true. We have to be intelligent because a whole wave of migrants is arriving and it isn’t easy to find solutions. But with dialogue among different nations they will find them.”
“Walls are never the answer. But bridges are, always, always. That’s what about walls and barriers. They are not the answer. The problem remains and it remains with more hatred.”
Last June Hungary announced its plan to build a 13-foot-high, 110-mile-long fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of illegal migrants. At the time, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said: “The EU’s countries seek a solution… but Hungary cannot afford to wait any longer.”
In his conversation with reporters, Pope Francis noted that Europe’s refugee crisis is the most serious since the Second World War, but said that it only reached the critical state after a long process. If the root causes of the waves of migration had been dealt with sooner, the Pope suggested, things might not have reached this point.
“This is the result of a process of years, he said, because the wars from which people are fleeing have been going on for years. Their hunger has been going on for years.”
At present, the majority of migrants entering Europe are coming from the war-torn Middle East, especially from Syria and Iraq.
In meetings between President Obama and Russian Premier Vladimir Putin yesterday, the war in Syria was the number one issue on the table. Senior officials from the Obama administration said the two leaders agreed to explore a political resolution in Syria.
Speaking with reporters, Obama insisted President Bashar Assad must relinquish power while Putin supported Assad as the only option to defeat ISIS.
Pope Francis has been a harsh critic of what he calls the “silent complicity” of the West for its failure to intervene, thus allowing ISIS to ravage these lands and their inhabitants. In June he decried “these atrocious, inhuman and incomprehensible persecutions,” which are “still present in many parts of the world today, often under the silent gaze of all.”
Earlier this year, Francis said that in the suffering face of Jesus, “we still see today our persecuted brothers, beheaded and crucified for their faith … before our eyes or often with our silent complicity.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome