Pope decries fomenting fear of migrants for political gain

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis decried as worrisome those who whip up fear of migrants for political gain as he urged people Friday to view global migration as a peace-building opportunity and not as a threat.

His message, which was issued in eight languages, was issued by the Vatican in preparation for the Catholic church's annual World Peace Day, which it marks on Jan. 1.

Without citing any nation, Francis said many countries where migrants and refugees have gone have seen "the spread of rhetoric decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals."

Francis added: "Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being."

Anti-migrant politics have been gaining currency in many places in Europe, including in the Vatican's backyard in Italy, where populist and right-wing parties are keen on making gains in national elections next year.

Francis noted that all indications point to global migration continuing for the future.

"Some consider this a threat," he said. "For my part, I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace."

The pope said those "responsible for the public good" should pursue "policies of welcome" that bear in mind the needs of all members of the human family and "the welfare of each."

Francis defined "welcoming" as "expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people toward countries where they face persecution and violence."

The approach of the Italian government and the European Union has incurred criticism from human rights advocates. While the human trafficking, which has seen hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers head toward Italy in the last few years, is roundly condemned by the West, stemming the smuggling could mean migrants are stranded in cruel conditions in Libyan detention facilities.

Francis expressed his "heartfelt hope" that in 2018, the United Nations would "draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees."

He also suggested that less wealthy countries could take in more refugees if the international community provided the necessary funds.

After noting that there are 250 million migrants worldwide, including some 22.5 million refugees, Francis said government leaders "have a clear responsibility toward their own communities, whose legitimate rights and harmonious development they must ensure." However, that he said, could be done while still welcoming, protecting and integrating migrants into their societies.


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FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2017 file photo, Pope Francis poses for selfies with migrants at a regional migrant center, in Bologna, Italy. In a message issued by the Vatican Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, Francis is decrying those whipping up fear of migrants for political gain, and is urging people to view global migration as a peace-building opportunity and not as a threat. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, files) The Associated Press
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