In his new message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Francis has denounced those who question the wisdom of mass migration, accusing them of demagoguery and promoting xenophobia.
Those who decry “the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals,” are guilty of “demeaning the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God,” Francis said in the New Year’s message.
To resort to such “rhetoric,” the Pope continued, people “are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being.”
The Catholic Church celebrates the World Day of Peace each year on New Year’s day, when it also commemorates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In his annual message for the Day of Peace, the Pope opted once again to underscore the plight of migrants and refugees, as he has on several occasions recently.
Migrants are men and women, children and elderly people, “who are searching for somewhere to live in peace,” Francis said, and in order to find that peace, “they are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.”
“In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands,” he said.
The Pope also outlined his theory regarding the causes of the mass migration that is affecting Europe and other parts of the world.
People migrate principally because they desire a better life, and often in an effort “to leave behind the ‘hopelessness’ of an unpromising future,” the Pope said. There has also been “a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation,” he added.
The Pope also gingerly addressed the thorny topic of illegal immigration, suggesting it was out of the ordinary and motivated by extreme circumstances.
While most people emigrate legally, “through regular channels,” Francis said, some “take different routes, mainly out of desperation, when their own countries offer neither safety nor opportunity, and every legal pathway appears impractical, blocked or too slow.”
The Pope did not say how he thought nations should deal with illegal immigrants, but he did suggest that mass migration itself may be a net benefit for nations.
While some consider global migration to be a “threat,” Francis said, “I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace.”
On a practical level, the Pope urged the United Nations “to draft and approve two Global Compacts” during the course of 2018, “one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees.”
“As shared agreements at a global level, these compacts will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical measures,” Francis added. “For this reason, they need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process.”
The Pope also reiterated earlier invitations to government leaders to practice “the virtue of prudence” in deciding how many immigrants to receive into their countries, while also insisting that leaders “have a clear responsibility towards their own communities, whose legitimate rights and harmonious development they must ensure,” but these concerns are likely to be completely overshadowed by his passionate appeal for greater openness to migrants.
In his Angelus message delivered on Monday in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis stressed some of these same points, urging his hearers to open their hearts to migrants and refugees.
“Let us not extinguish the hope in their hearts; let us not suffocate their aspirations to peace!” Francis said.
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