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European Bishops Decry Mentality that Views Immigrants as ‘Foreigners’

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The bishops of Europe called for solidarity in welcoming migrants Monday, condemning a mentality where immigrants are considered “foreigners.”

“Individualistic culture, which seems to be prevailing as a pensée unique, leads to a purely economic view of things where solidarity has no place, weaker individuals are considered burdens, and immigrants are viewed as foreigners,” the members of the Council of European Catholic Bishops’ Conferences stated in the final text from their meeting in Poznań, Poland.

After having provided the tragic backdrop to two world wars, the bishops said, “Europe must develop a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, breathing the wholesome air of solidarity through both its Christian lungs – East and West.”

In their final statement, the bishops made no direct reference to the policies of individual European nations. Several countries, such as Italy, Hungary, and Poland itself, have resisted attempts by the European Union to impose immigration quotas.

The bishops also tackled the issue of migrations, “considering the different situations and choices made by their respective governments and in the light of the Gospel,” the document declares, without naming names.

“We are not geopolitical experts,” they added, “however, as Pastors, we are involved in the actual life of our communities in all circumstances. We acknowledge the great complexity of this theme, but we reiterate, together with the Holy Father Francis, that solidarity is the unavoidable path to solving national, international, and global problems.”

“This path includes openness and integration in any possible form,” they said.

On Tuesday, the Vatican and the World Council of Churches began a two-day conference against “xenophobia, racism, and populist nationalism” as part of a broader to push for greater openness to global migration.

The Vatican’s representative, Monsignor Bruno-Marie Duffé, Secretary of the department for Promoting Integral Human Development, pointed to populism and nationalism as the enemy that must be vanquished.

“Populism is the political exploitation of collective fears: its announces a future for some with the exclusion of others. Our Christian hope is addressed to everyone no one excluded,” Monsignor Duffé said.

Duffé was particularly critical of efforts to curb illegal immigration out of a concern for national security, such as those undertaken by Italy’s populist government.

“How can we welcome and protect migrant people when a relevant number of citizens –including our brothers and sisters in the faith – close their doors to migrants because they believe that the latter ‘destabilize’ their society, nation or community?” he said.

For his part, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), also condemned the “destructive forces” of populism and nationalism.

“We will not allow the divisive forces of xenophobia, racism, and nationalist populism to prevail, but are ready to struggle for the consciousness of all people affected by them,” Tveit said.

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