11 January 2016
Christopher Lamb in Rome
Europe is overburdened by migrants, Pope warns world's diplomats
Continent must accept new arrivals but they must respect their new homes
Unprecedented levels of migration into Europe are overburdening the continent and causing fears about security due to the growth of international terrorism, Pope Francis told diplomats today.
At the same time, however, Francis urged the continent to assist and accept new arrivals on its shores.
"The present wave of migration seems to be undermining the foundations of that ‘humanistic spirit’ which Europe has always loved and defended," Francis told ambassadors accredited to the Holy See gathered this morning in the Sala Regia in the Apostolic Palace during his traditional new year address to them. The Vatican has diplomatic relations with 180 countries across the world.
"Yet there should be no loss of the values and principles of humanity, respect for the dignity of every person, mutual subsidiarity and solidarity, however much they may prove, in some moments of history, a burden difficult to bear."
The Pope has made the plight of migrants and refugees a key priority of his papacy and next month he will visit the city of Juarez on the border of the United States in Mexico.
He has also urged Europe, particularly parishes and religious communities, to welcome migrants often fleeing war, persecution and poverty.
In his speech today Francis accepted, however, that the "massive number of arrivals appear to be overburdening the system painstakingly built on the ashes of the Second World War".
He said there were "cultural implications" to migration related to religious affiliation explaining that extremism and fundamentalism "find fertile soil not only in the exploitation of religion for purposes of power, but also in the vacuum of ideals and the loss of identity – particularly religious identity – which dramatically marks the so-called West".
On the other hand new migrants, the Pope explained, have a responsibility to respect the "values, traditions and laws" of the country that welcomes them.
He called on the international community to find a co-ordinated response to migration which required both planning for the long term and an understanding of why people were fleeing their countries. Too often, Francis said, migrants are being forced to turn to human traffickers or smugglers even though this meant putting their lives at stake. The Pope said the images of dead child migrants washed up on Greek shores last October would be "forever imprinted" on minds and hearts.
Elsewhere in the speech Francis recalled his trip to Bangui, in the Central African Republic, as the place where he inaugurated the jubilee year of mercy.
He did this to promote peace and dialogue in a country suffering poverty and conflict between Christian and Muslim groups (the country recently held peaceful elections which took place on 30 December).
"I wanted to reaffirm, together with the Muslim community of the Central African Republic, that ‘those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace’ and consequently of mercy, for one may never kill in the name of God."
He added: "Only a distorted ideological form of religion can think that justice is done in the name of the Almighty by deliberately slaughtering defenceless persons, as in the brutal terrorist attacks which occurred in recent months in Africa, Europe and the Middle East."
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