France’s bishops are aiming to step up efforts to integrate migrants after an opinion poll they commissioned showed the country’s self-identified Catholics are divided over calls to welcome newcomers, with over one fifth concerned about the growth of Islam.
The poll, undertaken with three partners in response to Pope Francis’ repeated calls to welcome migrants, divided these practising and non-observant Catholics into five groups to analyse their views. They were divided according to social and economic attitudes and their possible anxieties regarding the resilience of French culture in the face of immigration. So-called multicultural Catholics (21 per cent) agree with the Pope while liberal (free market) Catholics (24 per cent) are open – with some reservations – to newcomers; Catholic nationalists (15 per cent) and secularised nationalists (18 per cent) are mostly opposed to immigration. In the middle are culturally insecure Catholics (22 per cent), many of whom express concern about the growing Muslim presence in the country.
The study spotted trends that cut across these lines and highlight ambivalence, including the finding that half of all Catholics – including some opposed to immigration – had donated to help migrants and 61 per cent of respondents opposed shutting France’s frontiers. “Overall, the fears expressed do not rule out benevolence and could even exist alongside practical action, meetings [with migrants] and expressions of solidarity,” said a bishops’ conference statement announcing further integration efforts in coming months.
“Each of these population segments has its fears, and sometimes legitimate concerns given the complexity of the problem of migration,” Paris Auxiliary Bishop Denis Jachiet said. The study was commissioned by the bishops’ team on migration, development NGO CCFD-Terre Solidaire and the French branches of the Jesuit Refugee Service and Caritas.