09 May 2016, The Tablet

Cardinal claims Pope can't understand refugee crisis because he is not from Europe

Czech Republic senior clergy says Francis' understanding of complex social issues on the continent comes from a different place

The Archbishop of Prague has claimed that Pope Francis has a different understanding of the migrant crisis to the people of Europe because of his upbringing in South America.

"The sensitivity of Pope Francis on social issues is different from ours in Europe," Cardinal Dominik Duka said. "Pope Francis is popular and there are different sources of his popularity. He also comes from Latin America where the gap between rich and poor is much bigger."

Duka added that the Pope's recent trip to Greece to meet refugees and to take two families back to Rome with him did not have enough substance. "It was just a gesture. When the media show the Pope meeting refugees on Lampedusa, I'd cry as well and say: we have to help these people. However, this is not a full solution. Pope then sends his prime minister Cardinal Parolin to the UN where he calls for a humanitarian intervention. However, the media does not show that, they just focus on the Pope."

In an interview with the Czech Republic daily newspaper Lidove noviny, the cardinal directed most of his criticism for the refugee crisis towards the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European federalists for pressing a "welcoming culture" of accepting refugees from Middle East in Europe which is dividing European societies and endangering their safety.

"I think that a large proportion of responsibility for this fear must be borne by those people who say: we have to accept all (refugees)," the cardinal said, as he warned against accepting large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and a "completely different culture and civilisation". He added that Europe is not able to integrate them and these attempts could cause "enormous humanitarian and economic catastrophe". The best solution for these refugees is to "re-establish state apparatus in their country of origin in order to ensure their life in dignity at home". The German Chancellor "undermines a number of fundamental principles of the European Union, security issues and Schengen Agreement," Duka added.

But rounding on the Pope he also said that Francis' stance had to do with his Latin American roots - a continent where the gap between rich and poor is much greater. Comparing Francis to the last two popes, both European born, Duka said that a deep rooted understanding of the history of the continent is vital.

"Saint John Paul was also able to attract the attention of crowds but he spoke in a completely different situation. He was European first of all. He knew the history of Nazism and Communism and he knew how difficult was the fight for freedom. He knew that freedom cannot be divided. When you'd compare the language of these popes (John Paul and Benedict) and their most frequented words, you'd see a big difference. However, you have to take society's mood into account." 

The Prague Archbishop also defended his country against the accusation of lack of receptivity to refugees. He recalled that "in the past 20 years, nearly half a million new citizens" have come to the Czech Republic, mainly from the post-Soviet countries.



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