Pope Francis meets with Jesuits in Thailand

Pope “shocked” by anti-immigration narratives in Europe, warns “populism is gaining strength”

The Pope has said he is “shocked” by populist anti-immigration and wall-building narratives circulating in Europe.

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“I must admit that I am shocked by some of the narratives I hear in Europe about borders”, Francis told 48 Jesuits from Southeast Asia in a meeting November 22 in the Shrine of Blessed Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung in Bangkok, according to a transcript of the conversation published Thursday.

“Populism is gaining strength”, the Pope decried.

“In other parts there are walls that even separate children from parents. Herod comes to mind. Yet for drugs, there’s no wall to keep them out”.

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Though Francis acknowledged that “the phenomenon of refugees has always existed”, he said today the mass movement of humans “is better known because of social differences, hunger, political tensions and especially war”.

“For these reasons, migratory movements are intensifying”, the pontiff warned.

“What is the answer the world gives? The policy of waste. Refugees are waste material.

“The Mediterranean has been turned into a cemetery. The notorious cruelty of some detention centers in Libya touches my heart. Here in Asia we all know the problem of the Rohingya”.

“The phenomenon of migration is compounded by war, hunger and a ‘defensive mindset’, which makes us in a state of fear believe that you can defend yourself only by strengthening borders”, the Pope insisted.

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He lamented that along with forced migration, too many people in the world today still suffer from exploitation, prostitution and slavery.

In the face of these realities, Francis said, the Church must not forget its “rich evangelical experience in dealing with the problem of refugees”.

“We also remember the importance of welcoming the foreigner as the Old Testament teaches us”, the Pope urged, insisting that “only in prayer will we find the strength and inspiration to engage fruitfully with the messy consequences of social injustice”.

Why it matters

In his meeting with the Southeast Asian Jesuits, the Pope also referred to how the Church and the world have received Laudato si’, his 2015 encyclical on care for our common home.

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Francis praised the COP21 meeting in Paris in 2015 as “really a step forward” on global warming, since “a big effort was made there to facilitate the meeting of world leaders in order to seek new ways to address climate change and safeguard the well-being of the Earth, our common home”.

“But then the conflicts began, the compromises between what was hoped for and the ‘wallet’, the economic interests of certain countries. And so some countries withdrew”, Francis lamented.

Today, however, he noted that “people have become much more aware than before of the need for the care of the common home and its importance”.

“Many movements were born, especially those animated by young people. This is the road to walk on”, Francis insisted.

The Pope praised especially the young people “who understand with their hearts that the survival of the planet is a fundamental theme”.

Young people “understand Laudato Si’ well, with their hearts”, the Pope said, adding that that “is a promise for the future”.

“We must continue to work to ensure that the fundamental message of Laudato si’ is shared worldwide. The encyclical is made to be widely shared.

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“There is no copyright on the care of the common home! It’s a message that belongs to everyone”, the Pope said.

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Mada Jurado

Reporter and community manager at Novena
Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.