President of Italian Bishops’ Conference Calls for Softer Immigration Policy

FILE - Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the new head of the Italian bishops conference, arrives for a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 27, 2022. Italy’s Catholic bishops on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 provided their first-ever accounting of clergy sexual abuse, but Italy's main survivor advocate said it was “shamefully” inadequate …
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File

ROME — Bologna Cardinal Matteo Zuppi declared Tuesday immigration is no longer an “emergency” in Europe, a situation that calls for gentler migration policies.

Cardinal Zuppi, who is president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and considered a frontrunner to succeed Pope Francis, said that the reality of immigration today “is often very different from what is described to us, even as regards the real proportions.”

In any case, “it’s not just about numbers but about people; there is so much suffering, so many dreams and hopes behind it,” the cardinal added while presenting the Italian Bishops’ 2022 Asylum Report at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome.

Zuppi went on to underscore the tragedy of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, urging his hearers never to get used to this problem.

“Above all, the numbers of those who die in the Mediterranean in search of a safe port can only worry us,” he said. “This year, more than 1,800 people have already died in the Mediterranean en route to Malta or Italy.”

“We can’t get used to this, these are statistics that unfortunately may no longer pain us, just as happens with wars,” he continued. “The Church wants to give a face to these people and defends all of life, always and without distinction.”

The cardinal’s remarks come as the new Italian government under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has attempted to curb illegal immigration into Italy, which had spiked during the prior administration.

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi holds the holy communion as Pope Francis celebrates mass on the occasion of the 27th national Eucharistic congress, in Matera, southern Italy, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Our position is that “no one enters Italy illegally, only legally,” Meloni said Monday. “We want to fight the trafficking of human beings, illegal entries, and deaths at sea. We do not want to continue to favor human traffickers.”

In his address, Zuppi in fact failed to mention the statistical correlation between soft immigration policies and migrant sea deaths, as many more people attempt the perilous crossing when they believe they will not be turned away and traffickers take advantage of such policies to enrich themselves at the expense of migrants.

In 2019, for instance, the Italian daily La Verità reported that “the Salvini method works,” referring to border controls by then-interior minister Matteo Salvini, who insisted that open ports fuel human trafficking and encourage migrants to undertake dangerous sea crossings.

The newspaper noted that Italy had witnessed a significant drop in new migrant arrivals because of tighter controls, accompanied by a substantial drop in the number of migrant deaths in the central Mediterranean Sea, which fell to less than half their prior rates thanks to Salvini’s policies.

In his discourse Tuesday, Cardinal Zuppi insisted that deportations of illegal migrants should be off the table.

“We send them back to inhumane places. If only we applied the ancient evangelical motto of not doing to others what one does not want done to us, we would realize that no one would go or send his loved ones to those inhuman places,” he said.


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