At the end of his weekly Angelus address Sunday, Pope Francis praised Greece and other “front line” countries for their reception of migrants, while urging the rest of the European Union (EU) to be more “generous” in taking in refugees.
“The plight of refugees fleeing wars and other inhuman situations has always been present in my prayer, and yours,” the Pope said to a crowd of thousands in Saint Peter’s Square.
“In particular, Greece and other countries that are on the front line are offering them generous assistance,” he said, “which requires the cooperation of all nations.”
In reference to recent debates regarding the “equitable” relocation of migrants throughout EU nations, the Pope said that “a unified response can be effective and distribute the weight evenly. For this we need to focus firmly and unreservedly on the negotiations.”
Francis also spoke approvingly of the news regarding “the cessation of hostilities in Syria,” and he invited his hearers to pray so that “this window of opportunity can give relief to the suffering people, encouraging the necessary humanitarian aid, and open the way to dialogue and much desired peace.”
Last September, the Pope made news by urging all Catholic institutions in Europe to take in one refugee family, beginning with his own diocese of Rome, and called the request “a concrete gesture in preparation for the Holy Year of Mercy.”
“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing from death by war and hunger,” Francis said, “the Gospel calls us, asks us to be ‘neighbors’ to the smallest and abandoned.”
Last week, Poland’s Foreign Minister accused Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of “blackmail,” after Renzi proposed cutting EU funding for Eastern European countries that refuse to take in immigrants.
“The problem of migrants and refugees has nothing to do with European policies, it is a prerogative of national security,” said Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski.
Viktor Orban’s government in Hungary reacted similarly to the Italian proposal, saying that Renzi’s threat to cut the European funds to countries blocking the relocation of migrants amounted to “political blackmail.” Hungary also reiterated its opposition to the quota system for the redistribution of refugees within the European Union.
Renzi has come under increasing pressure to deal with Italy’s immigrant problem, and has been harshly criticized from the right for what has been called his utter ineffectiveness.
Last month, Italian Senator Marco Marin of the Forza Italia Party said that the Prime Minister had converted Italy into a “great parking lot of despair” through his inability to effectively address the country’s immigration crisis.
Forecasts of a flood of as many as 400,000 immigrants into Italy in coming weeks have Italians on edge, as closed borders to the north mean that immigrants will be forced to remain on Italian soil.
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