By Joe Guzzardi
February 12, 2016
Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church’s first Latin American-born pontiff, has embarked on his six-city journey to Mexico. Francis’ trip starts with a stopover in Cuba before arriving in Mexico City, and will end in troubled Ciudad Juárez, a city notorious for its brutal murder of hundreds of poor women whose disfigured bodies were dumped in the dessert. Francis has steadfastly refused to comment on the killings, the disappearance of 43 education students missing for more than a year or meet with any of the parents.
In Juarez, Pope Francis will cap his first-ever trip to Mexico by celebrating Mass on Feb. 17 at the El Paso-Juárez border where, as he did in 2015 while in U.S., he’ll will advocate for illegal immigrants that hope to cross the border and those that already have. U.S. organizations coordinating the Mass anticipate that one million immigrants may attend.
Since the 2013 papal enclave elected Francis to succeed retired Pope Benedict XVI, the Argentina native has made immigration and refugee rights his central issue. In his May, 2013 address, “the Pontifical Council for the Care of Migrants and Itinerant People,” the pope pleaded that nations be more accepting of the world’s refugees. Then, two months later, Francis celebrated Mass on Lampedusa, an Italian island in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia, a favorite landing point for African refugees on their way to Europe. He chided Europeans, especially Italians, for their indifference to refugees’ plights—having said, “It doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t interest us. It’s not our business.”
Francis has repeatedly reprimanded U.S. and European leaders whom he perceives as not accepting enough to illegal immigration or refugees. In September, at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the Pope without distinguishing between legal and illegal, told a 24,000-strong and mostly Hispanic audience that immigrants comprise an important part of the U.S. population. Francis reiterated his message during his address to a U.S. congressional joint session when he demanded legislators reject their “mindset of hostility” toward immigrants and refugees. Francis falsely argues, as many open border supporters do, that Jesus, Joseph and Mary were Egyptian refugees. During Jesus’ era, Egypt was actually part of the Roman Empire.
Last year, at the Shroud of Turin, Francis summarized his immigration views. The Pope acknowledged that immigration increases competition, a concern for millions of jobless Americans and Europeans, but added that migrants shouldn’t be blamed because the global throw-away economy and endless, ethnic wars have victimized them.
Many of Francis’ critics, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, question whether any pope should take such an active role—some call it an interfering role—in secular matters outside the Vatican. Whether the U.S. takes in 75,000 refugees annually, as it does, or Germany welcomes more than one million, as it did in 2015, the total will apparently never be large enough to satisfy the Vatican.
More important, no matter how many refugees are resettled, conditions in their native countries won’t improve, but the receiving nations will be irreversibly altered. Immigration to the U.S. can never be a lasting solution to Third World problems. Every year for the last two decades the U.S. has taken in one million immigrants, but every year the Third World also adds 80 million to their populations.
Bishop John C. Wester who leads the Diocese of Salt Lake City and chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, understands the dilemma better than most of his peers. Wester said that a humane and lasting solution to ending illegal immigration and reducing the need for refugees to seek asylum is to address the economic root causes of migration and adopt economic policies which would help create jobs in other countries. That’s easier said than done, but since current refugee policies have failed, an approach that should be prioritized immediately after resettling them in Middle East safe zones.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]