Pope Francis spoke out about the Central American migration crisis Monday, criticizing “racist and xenophobic attitudes” and saying that children must “be welcomed and protected.”
In a statement issued to the Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development, Francis said, “A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalisation — all typical of a throwaway culture — towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”
The colloquium is part of efforts to create a joint policy between Mexico and the Holy See on migration, which Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Cardinal Parolin has repeatedly emphasized is an issue of great importance to the Church.
Catholic leadership has been vocal about the migration crisis in recent months, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops having held a national conference on migration in early June and sending Bishop Mark Seitz to testify before Congress about the Church’s work resettling migrants and the dangerous conditions in their home countries. (RELATED: Feds Ask Churches To House Migrant Families)
“While the Catholic Church recognizes governments’ sovereign right to control and protect the border,” he said, “we hold a strong and pervasive pastoral interest in the welfare of migrants, including unaccompanied children, and welcome newcomers from all lands.”
The USCCB has worked with the Department of Health and Human Services reuniting unaccompanied minors with family in the U.S. since 1994, while Catholic Relief Services run migration prevention programs in Central America. According to a Vatican radio report, nearly all migrant hostels in Mexico are run by Catholic organizations. (RELATED: Surge Of Migrant Children Urged On By US-Based Parents)
“This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected,” Francis concluded. “These measures, however, will not be sufficient, 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. Finally, this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”