Pope denounces 'racist, xenophobic' attitudes toward immigrants

Pope Francis visits the Brazilian community of Varginha July 25, 2013. Credit: Gustavo Kelly via JMJ Rio 2013/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

In his message for the Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development Pope Francis called for a change in the way migrants are viewed, giving particular emphasis to unaccompanied children.

“Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes,” the Roman Pontiff stated in the July 15 message.

The Pope’s letter was read aloud during the July 14-15 colloquium by the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, Christophe Pierre. Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin was also present.

Pope Francis drew attention specifically to the “tens of thousands” of children who migrate alone, particularly from Central America and Mexico to cross the border of the United States in order to escape poverty and violence.

Their pursuit of hope “in most cases turns out to be vain,” the Pope lamented, explaining that the number of unaccompanied child migrants is “increasing day by day.”

“This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

However, these protective measures will not be enough, he said, “unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin.”

Addressing the topic of globalization, the Bishop of Rome observed that although there are many things to be gained from it, the issue presents various challenges, particularly that of immigration, which he referred to as “one of the ‘signs’ of this time.”

“Despite the large influx of migrants present in all continents and in almost all countries, migration is still seen as an emergency, or as a circumstantial and sporadic fact, while instead it has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.”

Emigration “is a phenomenon that carries with it great promise and many challenges,” he noted, drawing attention to how migrants suffer and even die on their journey, while others are separated from their families or become the subject of racism.

“Faced with this situation,” the pontiff continued, “I repeat what I have affirmed in this year’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: ‘A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone.’”

Pope Francis called the faithful to move “away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture,” and instead foster “attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

He called on the entire international community to give greater attention to the issue, so that “new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”

U.S. authorities have taken custody of some 57,000 unaccompanied minors since October, which is twice the number from the same time last year. Mexican officials have also picked up 8,000 child migrants in the first five months of the year alone, more than half of whom were traveling alone.

According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Pietro Parolin addressed the colloquium participants, stating, “Whether they are traveling because of poverty, or violence, or with the hope of reuniting with relatives on the other side of the border, it is urgent to protect them and help them because their vulnerability is greater and they are defenseless against any abuse or misfortune.”


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