(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Churches in Europe to step up efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refugees.
The pope’s words came in a meeting with national migration directors under the auspices of the Council of European Bishops Conferences or CCEE. He said he was saddened to see that Catholic communities in Europe were also defensive and unwelcoming towards migrants, justifying their attitudes on grounds of conserving their cultural and religious identity.
Pope Francis said we must recognize and understand this sense of unease, in light of the economic crisis which has left deep wounds in society. Furthermore, he said, governments and communities have been ill prepared to cope with large influxes of migrants, highlighting the limits of the European unification process.
Churches become more ‘catholic’
But from an ecclesiological perspective, the pope said, the arrival of so many Christian brothers and sisters offers the Church in Europe an opportunity to become ever more ‘catholic’. He noted how many migrants and refugees have already enriched parishes in their host countries.
Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue
From a missionary perspective, he said, ministering to migrants offers new frontiers to announce the Gospel and to witness to our Christian faith, while showing profound respect for other faith traditions. These encounters are fertile ground for developing sincere ecumenical and interreligious relations, he said.
Welcome, protect, promote, integrate
Pope Francis also noted that in his message for next year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he speaks in detail about the need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all people on the move. On the basis of these four verbs, he said, the Vatican office for migrants and refugees has published a 20 point action plan for local Churches seeking to promote best practices.
Constructive dialogue with governments
This action plan, he added, should be shared with all European bishops conferences, helping to promote constructive dialogue with governments ahead of the Global Compact for Migration, due to be draw up and approved at a United Nations conference in 2018.