Pope Francis’ understanding of Europe’s migrant crisis reflects his Latin American origins, and differs substantially from a European view of the issue, according to the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka.
In a recent interview with the Czech Republic daily newspaper Lidove noviny, Cardinal Duka said that South American society and history plays a major influence in the Pope’s thinking, which is very different from that of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who were Europeans.
“The sensitivity of Pope Francis on social issues is different from ours in Europe,” Duka said. “He comes from Latin America where the gap between rich and poor is much bigger, as a result of its Indian cultures,” he said.
“When some of our citizens demonstrate for the acceptance of a million or even an unlimited number of refugees, we would also ask them if they are willing to give up one quarter of their income,” he said.
The Pope’s desire to help people is admirable, though perhaps unrealistic, the Cardinal said, noting that “in his place I would probably also be in tears and say: I have to help those people. But it is not a total solution.”
Duka warned against welcoming large numbers of Muslim migrants who come from a “completely different culture and civilization,” adding that Europe is not able to integrate them and these attempts could cause an “enormous humanitarian and economic catastrophe.”
Pope Francis himself has recognized that integration is not as simple as mere geographical transplanting. In his acceptance speech for the International Charlemagne Prize last Friday, Francis said: “Time is teaching us that it is not enough simply to settle individuals geographically: the challenge is that of a profound cultural integration.”
In his interview, Archbishop Duka said it was logical that “first and foremost we have to accept Christians because it is the most persecuted group who fear for their lives” and because Christians share a common tradition and culture that makes their assimilation easier.
He also insisted that the best solution for many migrants is to “re-establish state apparatus in their country of origin in order to ensure a dignified life at home.”
The Cardinal was also very critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy, saying that it “undermines a number of fundamental principles of the European Union, security issues and Schengen Agreement.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome