Europe is rethinking its permissive attitude toward immigrants and refugees, but Pope Francis is doubling down on his calls for all countries to welcome them with open arms, even as Italy, which surrounds Vatican City, recently embraced a government that has begun turning away migrants arriving by boat.
During an appearance at a Vatican conference marking the third anniversary of his famous environmental encyclical “Praise Be”, Francis urged the world (i.e. the US) to honor the commitments made in the Paris Accord, and also praised aid groups who rescue and care for migrants.
In a speech with suspiciously political overtones, the Pope said the IMF and World Bank would have an important tole in encouraging sustainable development. If countries don’t abide by their commitments, future generations will inherit a ruined environment.
“There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse,” he warned.
While celebrating a mass at St Peter’s Basilica for migrants and people who offer them aid, Francis warned of the “sterile hypocrisy” of those who choose not to help the poor and insecure live a “dignified life”, and lamented how Europe and the US were attempting to close their borders to immigrants and refugees, according to the Hill.
“It grieves us to see the lands of indigenous peoples expropriated and their cultures trampled on by predatory schemes and by new forms of colonialism, fueled by the culture of waste and consumerism,” Francis said.
Indeed, the Guardian described Friday’s conference as “the latest in a series of Vatican initiatives meant to impress a sense of urgency about global warming and the threat it poses…to the world’s poorest and most marginalized people.”
As Francis has continued to sound more like an activist and less like God’s highest authority on Earth, he is set to hold a three-week synod, or conference of bishops, specifically to address the ecological crisis in the Amazon. Francis has said that deforestation threatens to destroy the “lung” of the Earth, as well as the indigenous tribes who live in the rainforest
The pope even went so far as to recently invite oil executives and investors to the Vatican for a closed-door meeting where he reportedly asked them to find alternatives to fossil fuels and warned that they were helping to ruin the environment.
Since becoming Pope in 2013, Francis has shown a willingness to speak on many topics that are unusual for a Pope. These include financial instruments like credit default swaps, which the Holy See singled out as “a ticking time bomb” in a sweeping critique of the global financial system.
To be sure, Francis’s decision to speak in support of several liberal causes – from universal health care to immigration – has angered some conservative Catholics. Steve Bannon recently criticized Francis, saying the Catholic Church is “one of the worst instigators of this open borders policy,” adding that “the Pope – more than anybody else – has driven the migrant crisis in Europe.” Those criticisms arrived after an ally of Francis published an article blasting Catholic voters who voted for Trump while specifically attacking former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon in the shocking singling out of an individual Catholic.
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