Pope Francis: Xenophobic Mentality ‘Needs to Be Addressed Decisively’

Pope Francis greets migrants and refugees at the Moria refugee camp (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has warned that some unscrupulous politicians exploit the issue of immigration for “political ends,” fueling “fear and alarm.”

In a new book-length letter bearing the Latin title Christus Vivit (Christ lives), the pope said that the Church plays “a prophetic role in society with regard to the issue of migration” and has “an important role as a point of reference” for the young members of families divided by migration.

“In some host countries, migration causes fear and alarm, often fomented and exploited for political ends,” Francis said. “This can lead to a xenophobic mentality, as people close in on themselves, and this needs to be addressed decisively.”

The nearly 35,000-word letter, which the Vatican released Tuesday, is addressed specifically to “young people,” but includes a separate section titled “Migrants as an epitome of our time.”

“How can we fail to think of all those young people affected by movements of migration?” the pope writes, adding that the Church’s concern “is focused especially on those fleeing from war, violence, political or religious persecution, from natural disasters including those caused by climate change, and from extreme poverty.”

Young migrants in particular, Francis states, “dream of a better future and they want to create the conditions for achieving it.”

As he has done on previous occasions, the pontiff highlights the advantages and benefits of migration, while eschewing many of the problems associated with it.

“For the communities and societies to which they come, migrants bring an opportunity for enrichment and the integral human development of all,” he declares.

“In a special way, I urge young people not to play into the hands of those who would set them against other young people, newly arrived in their countries, and who would encourage them to view the latter as a threat, and not possessed of the same inalienable dignity as every other human being,” he writes.

Pope Francis has made immigration one of the central issues of his papacy, beginning with a 2013 visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa and continuing to the present with nearly daily pronouncements on the topic.

This past January, the Vatican’s department for migrants and refugees published a collection of the pope’s teachings on immigration, gathered into a massive 488-page tome, titled Lights on the Ways of Hope: Pope Francis Teaching on Migrants, Refugees and Human Trafficking.

Francis has insisted that immigration is central to the gospel message and should never be considered a second-tier moral issue.

“We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue,” Francis wrote in a 2018 teaching letter bearing the title Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”).

“Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him?” he asked.

In past days, the highest-ranking African prelate in the Church, the Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah, said that using the gospel to promote migration was an aberration.

Using the Bible to encourage migration constitutes “false exegesis,” he said, adding that it is better “to help people flourish in their culture than to encourage them to come to Europe.”

In an interview last week, the cardinal condemned the Church’s push for migration into Europe in the strongest terms, insisting that most immigrants wind up “without work or dignity” and assume the condition of slaves.

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