Countries should make it as easy as possible for migrants and refugees to cross their borders legally, Pope Francis has said.
In a message issued ahead of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which is due to take place on 18 January next year, the Pope called on governments to relax their immigration laws and to be more welcoming to people entering their territories.
“The principle of the centrality of the human person, firmly stated by my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI, obliges us to always prioritise personal safety over national security,” the Pope said.
He added that, for Catholics, “every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”
“The Lord entrusts to the church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future,” the Pope wrote.
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees is an annual Vatican event, instituted by Pope St Pius X in 1914.
In his message for the 2018 event, released on the Feast of the Assumption, Pope Francis called on countries to do multiple things, including simplifying the visa system, stopping the detention of underage migrants, giving work permits to refugees and asylum seekers, and guaranteeing the right of all migrants to practice their religion.
“Considering the current situation, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally,” the Pope said.
The Pope’s message was issued earlier than normal this year to encourage Catholics to get involved in drawing up UN compacts on immigration and refugees. The Pope urged Catholics to lobby their governments to be more welcoming to migrants.
“I invite you, therefore, to use every occasion to share this message with all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts,” Pope Francis said.