In an address before prefects of a number of Italian cities Saturday, Pope Francis chose to dwell on the topic of immigration, and reaffirmed the need to follow an orderly procedure when dealing with immigrants, in accord with the dictates of the law.
Francis made reference to the “particular impact” of immigration into Italy, “linked to the increase in the world of violent conflict with its tragic consequences on people and on the economies of many countries.” The Pope said that particular skills are needed to deal with the large number of potential immigrants seeking asylum or simply a better life.
These skills include the ability to determine “the correct application of the rules” in the daily management of situations, which will guarantee “fidelity to the dictates of the law and other regulations,” as well as “the scrupulous respect of fundamental rights of every human person.”
The Pope also expressed his gratitude for the efforts made in coordinating the reception of thousands of men, women, and children arriving to the Italian coasts.
“Obedience to the law and the criteria of humanity that underlie it and loyalty to institutions constitute the indispensable framework in which you carry out your function,” he said.
This is not the first time that the Pope has pronounced on the question of immigration.
Last December, Francis sent a personal letter to a group of Arizona students from a local Catholic school, who had written to him about their work with immigrants through the Kino Border Initiative. Pope Francis thanked them for assisting immigrants along America’s southern border.
“These young people, who have come to learn how to strive against the propagation of stereotypes, from people who only see in immigration a source of illegality, social conflict and violence,” Francis wrote, “can contribute much to show the world a church, without borders, as mother of all.”
The Pope also had harsh words in addressing the EU Parliament last November, criticizing Europe’s handling of its immigration problem. “It is intolerable,” said Francis, “for the Mediterranean Sea to become a great graveyard!” referring to the many migrants who set out in boats and die at sea.
“Europe will only be able to cope with problems related to immigration if it can clearly propose its cultural identity and implement appropriate legislation that both protects the rights of European citizens and ensure the reception of migrants.” He also blamed Europe for exacerbating socio-political conflicts within the countries of origin of many migrants, which feeds migration.
The Catholic Church officially teaches that “more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin.” It also teaches that political authorities “may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions.”
According to the same Catholic Catechism, immigrants “are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.