Catholic World News

Migration is top priority in Pope's annual address to diplomatic corps

January 11, 2016

Pope Francis called for a worldwide effort to address the crisis of migration in his annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps.

In a speech devoted mostly to the “massive and formidable phenomenon” of migration, the Pope acknowledged the difficulties that have arisen from the flood of new immigrants—especially in Europe. But he insisted that world leaders should address the problem, with a focus on the dignity of the individuals involved. “Many of the causes of migration could have been addressed some time ago,” he observed.

The annual papal speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps is regarded as the Pontiff’s “State of the World” address, indicating the Vatican’s policy priorities. Pope Francis left no doubt about his top priority, devoting the bulk of his speech to the question of migration.

The Pope opened his discussion of the topic by saying that the laments of migrants, forced from their homes, echoes the Biblical account of Rachel weeping:

Hers is the plea of thousands of people who weep as they flee horrific wars, persecutions and human rights violations, or political or social instability, which often make it impossible for them to live in their native lands. It is the outcry of those forced to flee in order to escape unspeakable acts of cruelty towards vulnerable persons, such as children and the disabled, or martyrdom solely on account of their religion.

At the heart of his address, the Pope focused on the crisis caused by a massive influx of refugees in Europe:

Without overlooking other dramatic situations-- in this regard, I think particularly of the border between Mexico and the United States of America, which I will be near when I visit Ciudad Juárez next month-- my thoughts turn in a special way to Europe. Over the past year Europe has witnessed a great wave of refugees-- many of whom died in the attempt-– a wave unprecedented in recent history, not even after the end of the Second World War. Many migrants from Asia and Africa see in Europe a beacon for principles such as equality before the law and for values inherent in human nature, including the inviolable dignity and equality of every person, love of neighbor regardless of origin or affiliation, freedom of conscience and solidarity towards our fellow men and women.
All the same, the massive number of arrivals on the shores of Europe appear to be overburdening the system of reception painstakingly built on the ashes of the Second World War, a system that is still an acknowledged beacon of humanity. Given the immense influx and the inevitable problems it creates, a number of questions have be raised about the real possibilities for accepting and accommodating people, about changes in the cultural and social structures of the receiving countries, and about the reshaping of certain regional geopolitical balances. Equally significant are fears about security, further exacerbated by the growing threat of international terrorism. The present wave of migration seems to be undermining the foundations of that “humanistic spirit” which Europe has always loved and defended.

Despite the difficulties involved, however, the Pope underlined “my conviction that Europe, aided by its great cultural and religious heritage, has the means to defend the centrality of the human person and to find the right balance between its twofold moral responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants.”

Noting that many people leave their homes because they cannot find adequate food, the Pope decried the continued existence of hunger at a time when many societies have plenty, and waste resources that others need. “What is needed,” he said, “is a common commitment which can decisively turn around the culture of waste and lack of respect for human life, so that no one will feel neglected or forgotten, and that no further lives will be sacrificed due to the lack of resources and, above all, of political will.”

Restrictions on immigration, the Pope said, complicate the difficulties facing those who have become homeless. “Where regular migration is impossible, migrants are often forced to turn to human traffickers or smugglers,” he said. He urged an international campaign to crack down on human trafficking, to protect the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

Before embarking on his discussion of migration, Pope Francis had opened his address to the diplomats with a look back across the year 2015. He reminded the ambassadors of his opening of the Year of Mercy, begun during his visit to the Central African Republic, “where fratricidal violence in recent years has left deep wounds.” He remarked that mercy had also been a theme of his trips to Sarajevo, South America, and the US. The Pontiff also reiterated his condemnation of religious violence. “Only a distorted ideological form of religion can think that justice is done in the name of the Almighty by deliberately slaughtering defenseless persons,” he said.

At the conclusion of his speech, the Pope pledged the continued diplomatic work of the Holy See in support of all efforts to promote world peace.

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  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Jan. 11, 2016 6:40 PM ET USA

    What needs to change is the "culture and social structure" of SENDING countries. And yet one more time: there is adequate food but non GMO craze curtails taking full advantage of greatly increased production, dictator robber barons continually rip off the population, and violence of all kinds completely disrupts any semblance of normal life including the 3 squares a day. Migration is NOT a solution to these problems.