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Pope urges Europe to find ‘balance’ between protecting citizens and helping migrants

Pope Francis (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Pope Francis has said European countries must “find the right balance between its two-fold moral responsibility” to protect its citizens from terrorism and welcome migrants and refugees.

The Pope’s comments came in his annual address to the Corps of Diplomats in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican today.

He said the recent “immense influx” of migrants to Europe from Asia and Africa “raised questions” about security and “the cultural and social structures of the receiving countries”.

“The massive number of arrivals on the shores of Europe appear to be overburdening the system of reception painstakingly built on the ashes of the Second World War, a system that is still an acknowledged beacon of humanity,” Francis said.

“Given the immense influx and the inevitable problems it creates, a number of questions have be raised about the real possibilities for accepting and accommodating people, about changes in the cultural and social structures of the receiving countries, and about the reshaping of certain regional geopolitical balances.

“Equally significant are fears about security, further exacerbated by the growing threat of international terrorism. The present wave of migration seems to be undermining the foundations of that ‘humanistic spirit’ which Europe has always loved and defended.”

However, he added that 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 also “reaffirmed (his) conviction that Europe, aided by its great cultural and religious heritage, has the means to defend the centrality of the human person and to find the right balance between its two-fold moral responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants.”

Francis told the gathering of diplomats that “many causes” of migration “could have been addressed some time ago”.

“So many disasters could have been prevented, or at least their harshest effects mitigated. Today too, before it is too late, much could be done to end these tragedies and to build peace. But that would mean rethinking entrenched habits and practices, beginning with issues involving the arms trade, the provision of raw materials and energy, investment, policies of financing and sustainable development, and even the grave scourge of corruption,” he said.

“We all know, too, that with regard to migration there is a need for mid-term and long-term planning which is not limited to emergency responses. Such planning should include effective assistance for integrating migrants in their receiving countries, while also promoting the development of their countries of origin through policies inspired by solidarity, yet not linking assistance to ideological strategies and practices alien or contrary to the cultures of the peoples being assisted.”

During the address, Francis discussed the papal visits he undertook in 2015, including his trips to Africa and America.

“The mystery of the Incarnation shows us the real face of God, for whom power does not mean force or destruction but love, and for whom justice is not vengeance but mercy. It is in light of this that I wished to proclaim the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, exceptionally inaugurated in Bangui during my Apostolic Journey in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic,” he said.

“In a country sorely tried by hunger, poverty and conflict, where fratricidal violence in recent years has left deep wounds, rending the nation and creating material and moral destitution, the opening of the Holy Door of Bangui Cathedral was meant as a sign of encouragement to look ahead, to set out anew and resume dialogue. There, where God’s name has been misused to perpetrate injustice, 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 that “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.”

Pope Francis said that mercy was “the common thread” linking his apostolic journeys during 2015

“In Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, during my journey to Sri Lanka and to the Philippines, and more recently with the Synod of Bishops, I reaffirmed the centrality of the family, which is the first and most important school of mercy, in which we learn to see God’s loving face and to mature and develop as human beings,” he said.

The Pope also confirmed that he will visit the border between Mexico and America when he is in Ciudad Juárez next month and said that the Holy See’s recent ‘comprehensive agreement’ with the ‘State of Palestine’ was an example of “how peaceful co-existence between the followers of different religions is possible when religious freedom is recognised and practical cooperation in the pursuit of the common good… is effectively guaranteed.

To read the full text of the Pope’s address, go here