Pope decries 'populist rhetoric' fuelling fear of immigrants

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis called on Tuesday for a radical change of attitude towards immigrants, saying they should be welcomed with dignity and denouncing the "populist rhetoric" he said was fuelling fear and selfishness in rich countries.

The pope, who has championed the cause of migrants since taking office in 2013, did not single out any country for criticism.

RELATED: Pope Francis in Greece with migrants and refugees

11 PHOTOS
Pope Francis in Greece with migrants and refugees
See Gallery
Pope Francis in Greece with migrants and refugees
LESBOS, GREECE - APRIL 16 : Pope Francis arrives at the port of Mytilene to make a speech in memory of refugees who have died at sea trying to reach Europe, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, 16 April 2016. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Migrants and refugees stand at a fence of the Moria detention center during a visit of Pope Francis in Mytilene, on the Greek island of Lesbos, on April 16, 2016. 'We are all migrants,' Pope Francis said on April 16 on a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos to give hope to thousands facing deportation after risking their lives to reach Europe. The pontiff's visit came amid continuing criticism of a deal reached last month to end Europe's refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LESBOS, GREECE - APRIL 16 : Pope Francis makes a speech at the port of Mytilene in memory of refugees who have died at sea trying to reach Europe, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, 16 April 2016. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A protester holds up a placard reading 'One world, one love' as solidarity groups, volunteers and pro-migrant groups protest against the EU-Turkey deal at the port of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos on April 16, 2016, during the visit of the Pope Francis and Orthodox religious leaders. 'We are all migrants,' Pope Francis said on April 16 on a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos to give hope to thousands facing deportation after risking their lives to reach Europe. The pontiff's visit came amid continuing criticism of a deal reached last month to end Europe's refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey. / AFP / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis looks on as he delivers a speech at the port of Mytilene where he met local population and threw a wreath of flowers in memory of the migrants died at sea trying to reach Europe, on the Greek island of Lesbos, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Filippo Monteforte/Pool
Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew pray for the victims of migration as a bird flies past at the port of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16, 2016. 'We are all migrants,' Pope Francis said on April 16 on a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos to give hope to thousands facing deportation after risking their lives to reach Europe. The pontiff's visit came amid continuing criticism of a deal reached last month to end Europe's refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey. / AFP / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
LESBOS, GREECE - APRIL 16 : Pope Francis makes a speech at the port of Mytilene in memory of refugees who have died at sea trying to reach Europe, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, 16 April 2016. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MYTILENE, GREECE - APRIL 16: Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Pope Francis and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronimos II during a memorial for the victims of migration at the port of Mytilene on April 16, 2016 in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. Pope Francis will visit migrants at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos along with Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronimos II. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Pope Francis shows drawings made by children on his flight back to Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp on April 16, 2016 in the Greek island of Lesbos. Twelve Syrian refugees were accompanying Pope Francis on his return flight to Rome after his visit to Lesbos on Saturday and will be housed in the Vatican, the Holy See said. Pope Francis, Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II visit Lesbos today to turn the spotlight on Europe's controversial deal with Turkey to end an unprecedented refugee crisis. AFP PHOTO POOL / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP / POOL / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis shows drawings made by children on his flight back to Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp on April 16, 2016 in the Greek island of Lesbos. Twelve Syrian refugees were accompanying Pope Francis on his return flight to Rome after his visit to Lesbos on Saturday and will be housed in the Vatican, the Holy See said. Pope Francis, Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II visit Lesbos today to turn the spotlight on Europe's controversial deal with Turkey to end an unprecedented refugee crisis. AFP PHOTO POOL / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP / POOL / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

But his words may resonate in the United States, where courts have blocked an executive order by President Donald Trump to suspend arrivals from seven mainly Muslim countries, and in a Europe still struggling with a mass influx of more than 1.3 million migrants and refugees since the start of 2015.

Immigrants should not be rejected out of hand as unworthy rivals but given a "responsible and dignified welcome," particularly those fleeing war, the pontiff said in a lengthy address to participants of a conference on migration in Rome.

SEE ALSO: Stop hurling insults and listen, Pope Francis tells politicians

"Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centeredness and amplified by populist rhetoric, what is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors."

Populist anti-immigrant parties have made gains in a number of European countries, including Italy, France and the Netherlands, where anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders on Saturday launched his campaign for next month's election with a promise to crack down on "Moroccan scum".

"For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organizations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels," the pope said.

Countries had a "moral imperative" to help exiles, asylum seekers, migrant workers, victims of human trafficking and even migrants in "irregular situations," he added in an apparent reference to undocumented immigrants.

A number of U.S. cities have filed law suits challenging Trump's executive order directing the federal government to withhold money from cities that have adopted sanctuary policies toward such people.

Francis even echoed the U.S. Declaration of Independence by saying they all had "inalienable rights".

"Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted," he said.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners