"The statelessness in which migrants and refugees sometimes find themselves can easily be avoided through legislation on citizenship complying with the fundamental principles of international law," Pope Francis said in his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018.
The pope's statement was issued a day after Premier Paolo Gentiloni irked anti-immigrant parties by vowing to pass a bill that would give Italian citizenship to the children of regular immigrants, born on Italian soil, who have spent at least five years in the Italian school system.
We must "respond to the numerous challenges posed by contemporary migrations with generosity, speed, wisdom and far-sightedness, each according to his possibilities," the pontiff continued. He stressed that "every foreigner who knocks on our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the foreigner welcomed or rejected in every epoch."
The pope said migrants were a resources whose rights had to be respected, and the "culture of encounter" must always be encouraged. He also called for more humanitarian corridors and proper accommodation for migrants.
He also said personal security must be combined with national security and stressed the need to "welcome, protect, promote and integrate."
However, right-wing parties came out against the pope's call Monday. Pope Francis should enact a "ius soli" (Latin for law of the soil) migrant children citizenship law in the Vatican, anti-immigration Northern League (LN) leader Matteo Salvini said.
"If he wants to apply it in his State, the Vatican, let him do so, but as a Catholic I don't think Italy can welcome and maintain the whole world. To God what is God's, to Caesar what is Caesar's. Amen. #stopinvasion," he wrote on Facebook.
Roberto Calderoli, an LN heavyweight, said, "The pope is wrong, we can't give citizenship to more than two million immigrants who don't even want it."