Pope Francis Has A Powerful Message For Those Who Fear Immigrants And Refugees (VIDEO)
Pope Francis is voicing concerns over the uptick in anti-immigrant bigotry in Europe and elsewhere. This is harming the weakest in society, he noted during a ceremony on Saturday, adding there is an “epidemic of animosity” against people of other races and religions. He is calling for caution against the rise of populist nationalism, The Christian Science Monitor notes.
Pope Francis has a warning for world leaders
It’s been barely more than a week since Donald Trump won the election, but anti-immigrant parties in Europe and other countries are stepping up their rhetoric. Francis noted “how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee become a threat, take on the status of an enemy.’
“An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith,” he said during a ceremony to induct new cardinals.
He didn’t name any specific country, but was almost certainly referring to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attitudes that have proliferated in the wake of Brexit and the U.S. presidential campaign. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that hundreds of hate crimes have occurred since the election.
The U.S. Justice Department said Friday it is investigating the reports of intimidation and harassment in schools, churches and elsewhere since the election.
And although Pope Francis didn’t mention Trump by name, his comments come just as there’s been renewed talk of building a wall along the southern border and cracking down on immigrants and refugees, The Hill reports.
The people Trump has chosen for national security adviser (Michael Flynn), attorney general (Jeff Sessions) and CIA director (Mike Pompeo) have all faced accusations of racism and Islamophobia.
The ceremony, held in St. Peter’s Basilica, formally inducted 17 churchmen, from six different countries, into the Cardinals’ ranks, The Associated Press reports.
Pope Francis used the occasion to warn the new “princes of the church,” (a term sometimes used to describe cardinals), to stand guard against the animosity that seems to be seeping into the church, noting that “we are not immune from this.”
He referred to “our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn” and issued a somber warning against those who “raise walls, build barriers and label people.”
Back when Trump was still a presidential candidate talking about building a wall, Pope Francis was asked about this and he said that anyone who advocates building walls isn’t a Christian. And in a recent message, Francis asked U.S. bishops to help heal a society that is increasingly being impacted by polarization.
Mexican Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, the archbishop of Tlalnepantla said he was worried about Trump’s plans, especially since those plans include deporting huge numbers of illegal immigrants living in the U.S.,something Trump plans to do as soon as he can.
“You can’t divide a family. You can’t divide a community. You can’t divide the world,” he told The Associated Press. He added, “One thing is the election campaign. Another thing is reality.”
During the homily Francis talked about how “we see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of the stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy. An enemy because they come from a distant country, or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language, or social class.”
“The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting,” he said.
Francis also touched on people’s tendency to “demonize” their enemies, “so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification for dismissing them.”
Because cardinals are papal advisers who also elect new popes, they often reflect the pope’s approach in sharing the church’s mission in the world.
Archbishop Joseph Tobin, of Indianapolis, is among the new group of red-hatted cardinals. And he defied governor Mike Pence by welcoming Syrian refugees. Tobin will become archbishop of Newark, New Jersey in January.
Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, who also earned his red hat on Saturday, said the church is charged with a special role that attempts to bring people together and bridge the political spectrum. Sunday Masses are celebrated in 26 languages at his diocese.
“People feel disenfranchised” from sharing in the common good, the cardinal said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Irish-born Archbishop Kevin Farrell, who also recently earned a red hat, led the Dallas diocese before Francis appointed him to head the Vatican office that deals with family issues.
At a reception held after the ceremony, Farrell said polarization is felt within the church as well.
“We’ve become gods on both sides — gods on the left, and gods on the right, and neither one of these are correct,” he said.
But Trump is no god. He is, however, divisive. And the U.S. is feeling the effects of this right now, with the rise in hate crimes, as noted by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
And perhaps most famously, Pope Francis has criticized Trump for intending to divide the Americas.
Traveling back to Vatican City after a week-long trip to Mexico and Cuba, Pope Francis talked to reporters and made his feelings clear about Trump’s proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”
Indeed, Trump is a man of walls, not bridges. And he has barely changed his anti-immigrant rhetoric, so it is no wonder that the U.S. is becoming hugely polarized.
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While I don’t agree with everything Pope Francis says (he still opposes same-sex marriage, after all), he has been far more progressive than his predecessors. And he stands up to Donald Trump. Something that’s completely necessary, when you consider his racist rhetoric and obvious prejudice towards the poor and the disadvantaged.
You can watch Pope Francis welcome the new cardinals in the video below.
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Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images