The pope called on European governments to keep the promises it made to help the suffering | Photo: Guiseppe Lami/ZUMA Press/Imago images
The pope called on European governments to keep the promises it made to help the suffering | Photo: Guiseppe Lami/ZUMA Press/Imago images

Pope Francis has called on countries to share responsibility on migration and refugee issues, and engage in dialogue to solve conflicts throughout the globe.

Last week, Pope Francis urged European countries to share responsibility for taking in migrants and helping them integrate.

At his weekly general audience on December 22, Pope Francis, who has made the defense of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy, urged nations to come together in a joint effort.

"In reality, it calls for a shared responsibility on the part of all, and from which no country can shrink, because it is a problem of humanity," he said.

European countries including Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Malta largely find themselves on the frontline of the migration debate. They have long called for other EU countries to share responsibility for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from north Africa.

Mediterranean countries under pressure

Conflicts and hardship continue to drive people to flee their countries, increasing the numbers arriving on European shores. Almost 55,000 migrants have arrived in Italy this year, up from about 30,000 last year.

Following the rescue of 800 migrants in the Mediterranean by the German humanitarian ship Sea-Eye 4, Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese stated: "These people have to be rescued, but it is enormously unfair that it should only be Italy just because it's the country of first landing in Europe,"

In his speech, the pope also spoke about his recent trip to Cyprus and Greece, during which he arranged for a number of migrants to be resettled in Italy: "I also was able to see how only a few European countries are bearing the greater part of consequences of the phenomena of migration in the Mediterranean area," he said.

Twelve migrants from refugee camps in Cyprus who are being resettled in Italy at Pope Francis' expense arrived last week -- the first of a total of 50 expected from the Mediterranean island.

This is not the first time the pope has been active in providing migrants and refugees with safe refuge; in April 2016, he also brought several migrants to Italy. The Pontiff has also publicly called for humanitarian corridors to allow migrants safe passage.

Need for dialogue

In his Christmas message on Saturday, Francis decried increasing polarisation in personal and international relationships, saying that only dialogue can resolve conflicts. He stressed that the same is true for family feuds as is for threats of war.

In his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message, he called on individuals and world leaders to talk and engage with one another rather than dig in their heels. Distancing, he said, has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic:

"Our capacity for social relationships is sorely tried; there is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do it all by ourselves, to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together," he said from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Christmas day.

Conflict continues to force people to flee

Francis, who turned 85 on December 17, listed conflicts, tensions and crises throughout the world, including the ones in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, as the main reason why people flee their homes: "We continue to witness a great number of conflicts, crises and disagreements," he said.

"These never seem to end; by now we hardly even notice them. We have become so used to them that immense tragedies are now being passed over in silence; we risk not hearing the cry of pain and distress of so many of our brothers and sisters," he said, speaking to a small crowd significantly reduced by COVID-19 restrictions and bad weather.

He asked people not to be indifferent to the plight of migrants, refugees, the displaced, political prisoners and women victims of violence, while also urging leaders to protect the environment for future generations. Francis also said he hoped more European countries would allow local church groups to bring in more refugees and migrants and help them integrate.

"You need only to open a door, the door of the heart," Francis said.


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