Sicilian Cardinal Francesco Montenegro has lamented the climate of “anxiety” washing over Europe because of the refugee crisis.

“In this situation, where everyone speaks of fear and terrorism, doors are closing – especially doors of hearts. That’s the biggest concern”, Montenegro told

“To call all refugees criminals is as offensive as if I were immediately labeled as a Sicilian in Germany as a mafioso”, said the cardinal.

Driving the news

Montenegro – archbishop of the Italian diocese of Agrigento, which takes in the key refugee arrival island of Lampedusa – opened up to about the case of German activist Carola Rackete.

He also spoke about the controversial immigration policies of far-right Matteo Salvini, among other issues.

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The big picture

Talking to, Montenegro railed against the inability of the European Union to solve the migrant problem.

“Europe has put the economy and finances at the center. Man has no place in it. I call the EU not European Union, but selfish Union, even if sometimes we pretend it’s a community”, denounced Montenegro.

“I always say that migration is not the problem but social inequality. And Europe is also responsible for poverty in Africa”, the cardinal claimed.

The intrigue

Montenegro accused Salvini, the controversial Italian politician, of using anxiety and “disinformation” around the refugee crisis to his political advantage.

He also criticised attempts to oppose Salvini and Pope Francis.

“I think we make the Pope smaller than he is if we portray him as Salvini’s opponent”, explained Montenegro.

“The Pope does not do anything else: he proclaims the gospel as he always has. Today, in a context in which a Salvini says what he means, the Pope continues to say what he means. But he does not do that on the same level as Salvini. Because he does not have to win elections and does not have to worry about majorities”, affirmed the cardinal.

Also, Montenegro warned Salvini that “a politics of screams and insults will not last in the long term. It will start to crumble sooner or later”.

Go deeper

Montenegro also had a powerful word of warning to politicians about migrants falling into the hands of the mafia.

“These young guys have nothing to do, wait in their quarters, watch TV in a language they do not understand… The mafia then says to the young migrants: I give you work, then you can feed your family. So they get on the wrong track. That’s sad”, alerted the cardinal.


Bishops call for “people-centred” asylum policies in EU


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.