Despite his well-known calls for open-heartedness in dealing with migrants, Pope Francis reminded reporters Monday that immigration requires regulation, while declining to lay down a judgment on President Trump’s decision to abolish Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
While expressing his gratitude for Italy and Greece for “opening their hearts to migrants,” Francis told reporters in a press briefing aboard the papal plane flying from Colombia to Rome that welcoming migrants is a command of God but “a government must handle this problem with the virtue of prudence.”
In the first place, he said, leaders must evaluate “how many places you have,” apparently referring to a given nation’s real capacity to receive and settle migrants. Second, he said, “not only welcome them but also integrate them.” Pope Francis has said previously that “integration” refers to a country’s ability to educate and house migrants, as well as the strength of the job market to employ them.
Last November, the Pope warned leaders not to take in more immigrants than they could handle, which included the key aspect of “integration.”
During a short papal press conference on his return flight from a trip to Sweden, Francis said that political authorities need to exercise prudence so as not to allow more migrants into the country than can be reasonably assimilated, suggesting that the failure of migrants to integrate can lead to a dangerous “ghettoization.”
The Pope said he had spoken with a government official who told him that Sweden is experiencing difficulties integrating the large numbers of migrants who are arriving into the country. He spoke to me of troubles they are having, Francis said, “because so many of them are coming that there isn’t time to settle them, find school, lodging, work, learn the language.”
“What is the danger when a refugee or migrant is not integrated?” Francis asked. “He is ghettoized, that is, he enters a ghetto. And a culture that does not develop in relation with another culture, that is dangerous,” he said.
“Migrants should be treated according to certain rules, because migration is a right, but one which is highly regulated,” he added.
“And if a country is only able to integrate 20, let’s say, then it should only accept that many. If another is able to do more, let it do more,” he said.
The Pope’s words seemed to contradict a recent statement by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan in which he took to task Breitbart Executive Chairman Steve Bannon for his assertion that DACA is not a part of Catholic “doctrine.”
“As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine,” Bannon said in an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes. “This is not doctrine at all. I totally respect the pope, and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine. This is not about doctrine.”
In his response to Bannon’s remarks, Dolan said Thursday on Sirius XM’s Catholic Channel that the Bishops’ opposition to the President on DACA “comes from the Bible itself, and we Catholics are people of the book… And the Bible is so clear, so clear, that to treat the immigrant with dignity and respect, to make sure that society is just in its treatment of the immigrant, is Biblical mandate.”
In his comments, Dolan seemed to imply that a “good Catholic” must reject President Trump’s decision to put an end to the Obama-era policy offering protections to young, undocumented immigrants. The implication was that the biblical mandate to “welcome the stranger” necessarily entails DACA and that no other position was possible. The Trump decision “is certainly not Christian,” he said.
Asked about this very issue Monday, the Pope’s answer was more circumspect. A reporter questioned Francis regarding Trump’s to repeal the DACA order, which the Pope refused to criticize directly.
“I heard about the abolition of this law, but I could not read the articles, how and why this decision was made. I do not know the situation well,” the Pope said.
Instead of treating DACA itself, Francis chose to emphasize the principle of keeping families together, insisting that their separation “is not a good thing for young people or for the family.” If the U.S. President is pro-life as he says he is, the Pope added, “he understands the importance of family and life, and that family unity should be defended.”
The Pope also recognized that DACA had come “from the executive and not from Congress,” which allows legislators a chance to rethink the issue.
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