While recognizing the legitimacy of people’s fears of terrorism and mass immigration, Pope Francis is urging world leaders not to allow such concerns to diminish solidarity with “our brothers and sisters in grave need.”
On Thursday the Pope received a group of new ambassadors representing six different nations from Africa, Northern Europe and Southeast Asia, noting that the presence of such a diversity of countries is a “poignant reminder” that, although our nationalities, cultures and religious beliefs may be different, “we are united by our common humanity and a shared mission to care for society and creation.”
Diplomatic service has taken on a “particular urgency,” Francis said, at a time when “so many in our world are suffering conflicts and war, forced migration and displacement, and the uncertainty born of economic hardship.”
As he has done on other occasions, the Pope acknowledged that many people “are afraid of terrorism and of a growing influx of migrants fundamentally changing their culture, economic stability and way of life.” He further recognized that such fears are understandable and cannot be dismissed lightly, but added that “they must be addressed in an intelligent and creative way, so that the rights and needs of all are respected and upheld.”
Earlier this week, when asked whether Europe should be welcoming so many migrants, the Pope responded that “it is a fair and responsible question because we cannot open the doors irrationally.”
In Thursday’s address, Francis spoke of the plight of those “suffering the tragedy of violence and forced migration,” urging political leaders to “be resolute in making their plight known to the world community.” He also suggested that solutions to the migrant crisis include “efforts to remove weapons from those perpetrating violence, and to end the scourge of human trafficking and the drug trade which often support this evil.”
Though the real goal must be to “help people to remain in their homelands,” Francis said, “this present hour urges us to assist migrants and those caring for them.”
“We must not allow misunderstanding and fear to weaken our resolve,” he said.
The Pope also underscored the humanity of migrants, insisting on the need to “respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to.”
He also expressed his belief that it is possible for migrants, who in Europe are mostly Muslims, to be assimilated in a way that “respects the traditions of migrants and preserves the culture of the community receiving them, all the while enriching both.”
In this conviction, Pope Francis seems to diverge from the opinion of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, who declared that Islam “is not simply a denomination that can be included in the free realm of a pluralistic society.”
“Islam has a total organization of life that is completely different from ours; it embraces simply everything. There is a very marked subordination of woman to man; there is a very tightly knit criminal law, indeed, a law regulating all areas of life, that is opposed to our modern ideas about society,” he wrote when he was Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Pope Francis concluded his remarks Thursday by reaching out to members of the Catholic communities present in the countries represented, especially those “Christian and minority communities suffering persecution for their beliefs,” promising them his “prayerful support and solidarity.”
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