Refugees, the Pope: “Let's help Africa grow, stop exploiting it”

Refugees, the Pope: “Let's help Africa grow, stop exploiting it”

By Andrea Tornielli/ lastampa.it

On the return flight from Geneva, Francis speaks of the immigration emergency and supports the idea of a Marshall plan for poor countries. Then he calls Governments to “welcome all those who can be integrated, but with prudence. And praises “Italy’s generosity”. On Communion to the Protestant Spouses, “There was no halt”.

The proposal of a Marshall Plan for all poor countries, such as those in the Middle East and Africa, overcoming old prejudices that has them merely as “land to be exploited”, and the appeal to governments to welcome all the refugees they can integrate into society by exercising "the virtue of prudence". Then the Pope thanked Italy and Greece for the "welcome" they have shown so far with migrants and restates his full support to the U.S. bishops’ stand against government measures on migrants on the border with Mexico: "I am on their side". On the plane that takes him back from Geneva to Rome, Francis once again discusses the issue of migration with the journalists who accompanied him to Switzerland, in the light of recent international news. A lightning-fast trip, of an entirely ecumenical nature, whose outcome - for the Pope - is positive: "It has been a bit of a heavy day, for me at least, but I am pleased, because several of the things we did, prayer, dialogue during lunch, were very beautiful. The ecumenical meeting and the mass made me happy".

We have seen that the Secretary-General of the WCC has also spoken about aid to refugees. We have also seen the ship Aquarius incident and the separation of families in the USA, do you think that some governments are taking advantage of the dramatic situation of immigrants?

"I have spoken a lot about refugees. The criteria are in what I said: to accept, to accompany, to arrange, to integrate. I am referring to all refugees. Then I said that every country must do this with the virtue of governance which is prudence, it must welcome as many as it can, as many as it can integrate and give work to. This is the quiet, serene plan on refugees. Here we are experiencing a wave of people escaping from wars and hunger in Africa and persecution in the Middle East. Italy and Greece have been very generous in welcoming. In the Middle East, Turkey, and Lebanon, which has as many Syrians as Lebanese, and then Jordan. There is the problem of the migrants trafficking, and there is also the problem of when - in some cases - they have to return for some kind of agreement... And I’ve seen the photographs of the prisons of the traffickers, who immediately separate women and children from men. Only God knows where these women and children go. I know about this case, where the traffickers approached a ship and said: give us the women and the children and take the men. And the prisons for those who came back are terrible... Such things were seen in the Second World War concentration camps. The mutilations… and then they throw them into mass graves. That is why governments care that they do not return and fall into the hands of these people. There is a worldwide concern, I know that the governments are talking about this and want to sign an agreement, amend the Dublin agreement and all of this. In Spain you had the case of this ship in Valencia, but what a mess! The problem of wars is difficult to resolve, the problem of persecution in the Middle East and Nigeria, the problem of hunger that can be resolved. Many European governments are thinking about a plan to invest intelligently in those countries, offering education: without offending them. Yet it is the truth, in the collective unconscious lies an ugly slogan: "Africa must be exploited. Oh, they're Africans, land of slaves". This must change with this plan of investment, of education, to make it grow because the African people have so many cultural riches, so much intelligence, so many intelligent children... this will be a medium-term plan. But, at the moment, governments must agree to move forward with this emergency. About America: there is a great migration problem, even in Latin America, internal migrations. In Argentina, from north to south, there are people who leave the countryside and go to big cities and there are slums. Then there is external migration. Concretely on the United States I stand behind what the bishops of that country say, I am on their side".

Do you think that it would be appropriate for the Catholic Church to join the so-called Churches of Peace and put aside the idea of a just war?

"You have put your finger on the wound. Today at lunch, a pastor said that the first human right is the right to hope. We have spoken about today's crisis of human rights. There is an evident human rights crisis, there is some talk of human rights but many groups and some countries distance themselves... there is not the same strength, enthusiasm, and conviction as twenty years ago. And this is serious, because we have to see the causes, what are they? Today human rights are relative. The right to peace is also relative in a human rights crisis. You ask about peace... I believe that all the Churches that have this spirit of peace must come together and work together as we have said in our speeches today, both myself and the others who have spoken. Peace is a necessity, because there is the risk of a war... someone said, about the Third World War, if it happens, we do not know what weapons will be used. But if there is a fourth, it will be done with sticks and stones because humanity will be destroyed. Think about the money spent on armaments. Peace, brotherhood... Conflicts must not be resolved like Cain did, but through negotiation, dialogue, and mediation. We are in a crisis of mediations, crisis of hope, crisis of human rights, crisis of peace. And are there any religions of war? It is difficult to understand this, but there are certainly some small groups, in almost all religions, that are fundamentalists and seek war (we Catholics also have some). This is very important to keep before our eyes".

You often talk about concrete steps to be taken in ecumenism, today you said: let us see what can be done concretely. The German bishops decided to take a step forward, for the communion of the Protestant spouse, and so we wonder why Archbishop Ladaria wrote a letter that seems a little like pulling the emergency brake. After the meeting on May 3, it was said that a unanimous solution had to be found. Will intervention from the Vatican be necessary?

"This is not something new, because in the Code of Canon Law there is provision for what the bishops spoke of, communion in special cases. They looked at the problem of mixed marriages. The Code says that the bishop of the particular Church, of a diocese, must take care of that, it is in his hands. The German bishops, since they had seen that it was not clear – maybe some priests did not act in agreement with the bishop - wanted to study this theme and pursued this study, which I do not want to exaggerate, but lasted more than a year, [it’s] well done. And the study is restrictive: what the bishops wanted was to state clearly what is in the code. I read it and I say: it's restrictive, it doesn’t open to everyone! They wanted to do it for the local Church. The thing slipped to the German Episcopal Conference, but the Code does not provide for this, the Code does not provide for the Conference, because something approved by an Episcopal Conference immediately becomes universal. And this was the difficulty, not so much the content. They sent the document, then there were two or three meetings and Archbishop Ladaria sent that letter but with my permission, he did not do it alone. I said yes, it is better to take a step forward and say that the document is not yet mature and that it should have been studied more. Then there was another meeting and, in the end, they will study it. I believe that this will be an orientation document so that each of the diocesan bishops can manage what the canon law already permits. There was no halting. When I visited the Lutheran Church in Rome, I responded in the spirit of the Code of Canon Law, [which is] what they are looking for now. Perhaps there has been a lack of information. The Code allows it to be up to the specific Church, not to the Episcopal Conference. Yet the conference can study and give guidelines".

What were the important moments of the day?

"It was a day of varied encounters; the right word of the day is “encounter”. When one person encounters another one, the heart is touched and it is always a pleasure. These were positive, beautiful encounters. Starting with the dialogue with the President, that was no curtesy visit. He got very deep on profound world issues, and with an intelligence that amazed me. Then the meetings that you have seen. What you haven't seen was the lunch meeting, which was very deep, we touched on so many topics, the one in which we stayed longer was that of young people, because all the confessions are concerned about young people. And the pre-synod meeting that took place in Rome attracted so much attention, there were 315 young people, even agnostics... This perhaps aroused a special interest. Human encounter, no rudeness, no formality. Human encounter.”

Before bidding farewell to journalists, the Pope added: "Today really was an ecumenical day, at lunch we said a beautiful word: in the ecumenical movement we must remove a word from the dictionary proselytism. Clear? There cannot be ecumenism with proselytism".

Then he called Monsignor Angelo Becciu on his last trip as Substitute of the Secretariat of State. Francis wanted to celebrate him by offering everyone a Sardinian dessert, the region from where the new cardinal comes from.

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 18:55
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