Pope says don’t turn backs on refugees

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Pope Francis leads the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 20, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis leads the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 20, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, leading the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in Palm Sunday services leading up to Easter, on Sunday criticized those who he said were washing their hands of the fate of desperate refugees.

Francis blessed palm and olive branches in St. Peter’s Square before tens of thousands of people to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem the week before the crowd turned against him and he was crucified.

He departed from his prepared homily to appeal to nations not to turn their backs on refugees.

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After mentioning the part of the gospel recounting how Jesus was denied justice and abandoned to his fate, Francis added in unscripted remarks:

“I am thinking of so many other people, so many marginalized people, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees. There are so many who don’t want to take responsibility for their destiny.”

Over 1.1 million migrants fleeing war and failed states flowed into the European Union in 2015 and the influx has continued, prompting countries straddling the main migration corridor through the Balkans to the wealthy north of the EU to seal their borders, trapping tens of thousands in Greece.

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Last week, Macedonia trucked 1,500 migrants back to Greece after they forced their way across the border. Images of exhausted migrants fording a fast-moving stream in the cold were splashed across Italian newspapers.

Under a European Union deal reached last week with Turkey, all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who cross to Greece illegally by sea will be sent back to Turkey once they are registered and their asylum claims have been processed.

In return, the EU will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with more money, early visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

Palm Sunday marks the start of the busiest week in the Catholic liturgical calendar.

Francis has two events on Holy Thursday, including a ritual where he washes and kisses the feet of 12 people commemorating Christ’s gesture of humility towards his apostles on the night before he died.

The pope presides at two services on Good Friday, including a candlelight Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around Rome’s Colosseum.

He leads an Easter vigil service on Saturday and on Easter Sunday he delivers his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella)

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  • Observer

    Perhaps the pope needs push hard for things to be done to make it attractive for would be migrants to stay in their home countries. This needs to include economic development, redesign of national borders drawn up from the British/French colonial era, and more political reform . Refugee camps could be enhanced until things get better.

    Economic development and political reform in Latin America could go a long way toward stopping migrants. The Roman Catholic Church has a considerable sway in those nations.

  • William Bockstael

    How many refugees is The Vatican taking ?

    I am curious

  • William Bockstael

    You need a basic spelling book as well

  • The pope needs to allow the refuges into the Vatican. The pope needs to put rubber to the road if he expects other countries to allow them into their country. Don’t be hypocritical, OK?

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3OMnL8mkc8 ( My video honouring the United Nations day – tomorrow the 21st, to end discrimination ) – It is good to see this Pope express an interest in real life problems that people face here on earth.
    It is no wonder so many love him.

  • Everett

    I’m down with helping those who are fleeing persecution, but there needs to be a thorough screening of all who are seeking asylum. We have been tragic witness to what may happen when unrestricted access is allowed.

  • Everett

    What was Paul speaking of in 1Corinthians 6:9-11? What does “and such were some of you” mean or what is he talking about when he says you were “washed” and “justified”?

  • yoh

    We already have a screening process. One far more vigorous than what we did for Southeast Asian “boat people”, the Mariel boat lift or influx of Russians in the early 1990’s. The whole, “the refugees are not being vetted” is a politically motivated fiction.

    Refugee camps become cities when it’s residents are not dispersed via refugee immigration elsewhere. We see that in The West Bank, Central Africa and Laos.

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  • Betty Clermont

    An April 2015 article in Il Sole 24 Ore stated the Vatican’s assets – securities, commercial real estate and bank accounts – for all its departments and offices combined “by a conservative estimate” would be around 15-17 billion euro. Yet the pope is sponsoring only two refugee families.

  • Start with taking in 10,000 refugees, and Mexican immigrants to the 109 protected acres at the Vatican. That’s 100 people per acre, which is very manageable. Then preach.

  • Amen.

    He’s got 109 acres, completely walled off, and filthy, filthy riches inside.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Total domination is cruel. Human beings are made refugees by the dominant societies.

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