Pope Francis: Immigrants Provide ‘Enrichment’ to Society, Not ‘Threats’

Pope Francis poses for a selfie with a man as he visits a migrant reception centre during a pastoral visit in Bologna, on October 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / ALESSANDRO BIANCHI (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has called for a “change in mindset” regarding immigration, insisting in a message Thursday that migrants are not a threat to society but, rather, an enrichment that should be appreciated as such.

In his message to the second Holy See-Mexico Conference on International Migration in the Vatican, the pope praised the work of the “International Community” aimed at the adoption of two global compacts, one on refugees and the other on “safe, orderly and regular migration.”

“I encourage you in your work and your efforts to ground responsibility for the shared global management of international migration in the values of justice, solidarity and compassion,” the pontiff said.

With movements afoot to stem the flow of international mass migration, Francis called for a shift in priorities and mentality.

“This demands a change in mindset,” he said. “We must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society.”

“For this to happen, our basic approach must be to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her,” he added.

The “transnational dimension” of the current migration situation exceeds the capacities and resources of many nations, the pope said, which means that “the assistance of the entire international community is needed”:

The pope’s words follow on intense debates regarding the relative importance of international immigration “quotas,” on the one hand, and the sovereign rights of individual countries to determine how many migrants to accept, on the other.

“Such international cooperation is important at every stage of migration: from departing one’s country of origin all the way to reaching one’s destination, as well as facilitating reentry and transit,” Francis said.

“In each of these countries, migrants are vulnerable, feeling alone and isolated. The recognition of this fact is vitally important if we wish to give a concrete and dignified response to this humanitarian challenge,” he added.

In his message Thursday, the pope reiterated that the issue of migration is not simply one of numbers, but of persons.

“These persons, our brothers and sisters, need ‘ongoing protection,’ independently of whatever migrant status they may have,” he said, and their “fundamental rights and their dignity need to be protected and defended.”

The pontiff called for particular concern to be shown toward “migrant children and their families,” as well as victims of human trafficking rings and those displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters, and persecution.

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