Vatican denounces UK laws regulating immigration, calls for ‘a wider we’

During a news conference announcing the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, speakers criticized recent moves made by United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson to regulate the influx of immigrants in the country.

Pope Francis meets a group of migrants recently arrived from Libya, wearing shirts with writing reading “Thank you Pope Francis,” at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — The Vatican presented its plans for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees during a news conference Thursday (May 6). The event will take place on Sept. 26 with the theme “Toward an Even Wider We.” The Migrants and Refugee section at the Vatican will spearhead this year’s campaign.

Speakers at the news conference addressed the challenges faced by immigrants and refugees, from the U.S.-Mexico border to England, highlighting how the situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and “hostile public policies.”

“We are all in the same boat and we are called to commit ourselves so that no more walls separate us, so that there are no longer others but only one we, a we as wide as us, an us as great as all of humanity,” Pope Francis said in a video message released for the launch of the media campaign.

The video, released on Thursday, included reflections by Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, on the U.S.-Mexico border, who spoke about his personal experiences in accompanying refugees and migrants wishing to enter the U.S. and facing family separation and economic struggles.

“Every month our section will publish a batch of materials and resources so that every diocese, every parish, every organization can prepare for the day, month by month and step by step,” Cardinal Michael F. Czerny said, adding that Catholic clergy and faithful will have access to spiritual and theological reflections aimed at promoting concern for immigrants. Czerny is undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

During the news conference, speakers also denounced recent moves by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom to introduce new laws regulating the influx of immigrants in the country.

“The decision of the United Kingdom to reduce its aid budget compounds the suffering of the world’s poorest,” said Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleenan of Westminster, England, speaking remotely at the news conference.

Decisions made by countries to address climate change or the arms trade have an impact on the migration flows throughout the world, McAleenan said, condemning policies that seek to divide immigrants based on their economic possibilities.

“The aim of the church is to welcome, protect and promote all, knowing that human life and well-being are at risk, not national security,” he added.

The director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the U.K., Sarah Teather, also spoke virtually at the conference and criticized her country’s asylum system, which “builds walls of suspicion” that lead to destitution and exploitation of migrants. She condemned the U.K.’s “aggressive and closed politics” but said she still holds hope for the future, thanks to the commitment of individuals in everyday life.

“In small, concrete ways, we can all participate in this shared project to recompose a common human family. For there are treasures to be found when we strive together to break down walls that divide us,” she said. “The dream of one human family is a dream worth realizing.”

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