Pope Francis urges young Catholics to build bridges, not walls

Pope Francis made a thinly veiled reference to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall on Thursday, criticizing people who build walls instead of bridges.

The pontiff, who is visiting Panama for a global Catholic youth rally, didn’t explicitly mention Trump, but made it clear that he wants young members of his flock to be the kind of people who build bridges.

“These builders of walls that sow fear are looking to divide people and box them in,” the pope said during the opening ceremony of World Youth Day in Panama City.

“What do you want to be?” Francis asked the estimated 250,000 young people assembled for the rally.

“Builders of bridges,” his audience replied, according to a video of the ceremony published on YouTube by Vatican News.  

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Pope Francis canonizes new saints in ceremony
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Pope Francis canonizes new saints in ceremony
Pope Francis leaves at the end of a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A view of St. Peter's Square during a canonization ceremony, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A view of St. Peter's Square during a canonization ceremony presided over by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has lauded new saints Pope Paul VI and slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as prophets of a church that looks out for the poor as he presided over a canonization ceremony. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A view of St. Peter's Square during a canonization ceremony presided over by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has lauded new saints Pope Paul VI and slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as prophets of a church that looks out for the poor as he presided over a canonization ceremony. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A woman applauds the announcement by Pope Francis that El Salvador's martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is a Saint, outside the cathedral where Romero's remains are entombed and where people gathered to watch tv live images from the Vatican in San Salvador, El Salvador, early Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. For many in San Salvador, it was the culmination of a fraught and politicized campaign to have the church formally honor a man who publicly denounced the repression by El Salvador's military dictatorship at the start of the country's 1980-1992 civil war. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
Faithful follow a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A tapestry portraying Maria Katharina Kasper hangs from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonized two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Nuns wave flags during a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis leaves at the end of a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis leaves at the end of a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Chile President Sebastian Pinera, foreground center, attends a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has lauded new saints Pope Paul VI and slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as prophets of a church that looks out for the poor as he presided over a canonization ceremony. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis leaves at the end of a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A view of St. Peter's Square during a canonization ceremony, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A view of St. Peter's Square during a canonization ceremony, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Tapestries portraying new proclaimed saints hang from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica during a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has lauded new saints Pope Paul VI and slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as prophets of a church that looks out for the poor as he presided over a canonization ceremony. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis presides over a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis has lauded new saints Pope Paul VI and slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as prophets of a church that looks out for the poor as he presided over a canonization ceremony. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Emeritus Queen Sofia of Spain attends a ceremony for the canonization of two towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church: Pope Paul VI, who oversaw church reforms of the 1960s, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, a human rights icon who was murdered for his defense of El Salvador's poor, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis celebrates Sunday's saint-making Mass wearing the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down in 1980. He will also be using Paul VI's staff, chalice and vestment. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez Cheren attends a ceremony for the canonization of two towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church: Pope Paul VI, who oversaw church reforms of the 1960s, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, a human rights icon who was murdered for his defense of El Salvador's poor, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis celebrates Sunday's saint-making Mass wearing the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down in 1980. He will also be using Paul VI's staff, chalice and vestment. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A priest holds a picture of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero prior to a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A man holds flag with a picture of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero prior to a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis, center, incenses the relics during a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A man wears an El Salvador scarf prior to a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis presides over a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis presides over a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis incenses the relics during a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Figures of archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero are displayed for sale at a Catholic shop, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Pope Francis will canonize two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
A pedestrian looks at a banner with the image of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Pope Francis will canonize two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness for the faithful today.(AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
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Francis, the Catholic Church’s first Latin American pope, also praised the youth for joining together for the rally, even though they come from diverse cultures and speak many different languages.

During his flight to Central America on Wednesday, Francis responded to a reporter’s question about the border wall by stating that the irrational fear of migration drives people “crazy.” 

On Thursday, he urged Central American church leaders, dioceses and parishes to help the rest of society overcome its fears about migration by welcoming migrants. 

“The Church, by virtue of her universality, can provide the fraternal hospitality and acceptance that can enable the communities of origin and of destination to dialogue and to help overcome fears and suspicions, and thus to consolidate the very bonds that migrations ― in the collective imagination ― threaten to break,” Francis said during a bishops’ meeting. 

Francis’ comments come during a partial government shutdown in the U.S. that was triggered by a dispute between Trump, who wants more than $5 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and Democrats in Congress, who don’t want to allocate any new money for it. The shutdown, now in its fifth week, has affected 800,000 federal workers.

Francis has made the plight of migrants and refugees one of the key issues of his papacy. In the past, he’s made many pronouncements on the morality of a border wall.

In 2016, while Trump was still a presidential candidate, Francis responded to a reporter’s question about Trump’s proposed border wall by suggesting that “a person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

In 2017, days after Trump released the first iteration of a travel ban temporarily halting refugee admissions and blocking immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Francis issued another strong indictment of walls.

“In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls but to build bridges,” he said during a catechism lesson.

Catholic youth groups from around the globe attend World Youth Day, which is held every two to three years. The event is meant to revitalize young Catholics’ faith.

As part of his five-day trip to Panama, Francis also met with the country’s President Juan Carlos Varela at the presidential palace. On Friday, Francis visited a juvenile detention center to hear the confessions of youth unable to attend World Youth Day.

Francis is scheduled to stay in Panama until Sunday

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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