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Five lessons from Pope Francis on migration

4 July 2023
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has made it clear from the beginning of his Papacy that the issue of refugees and migrants is close to his heart. This year he urged world leaders to ‘build bridges, not walls’ and find a more compassionate approach to the issue of migration. 

As our government makes plans for a new Illegal Migration Bill, which will effectively shut the door on people needing protection, we look to what the Holy Father has taught us about our sisters and brothers seeking sanctuary.

Political decisions can create tragedies for refugees

There were many countries that Pope Francis could have chosen for his first official visit outside of Rome back in 2013. But he ignored expectations and chose the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, the arrival point for many people making dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean.

Pope Francis prayed for refugees and migrants lost at sea, and during Mass on the island, spoke the words, “Lord, we ask forgiveness, for those who with their laws and decisions have created situations that have led to these tragedies.”

Migrants and refugees are children of the same God

During Holy Thursday celebrations in 2016, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of 11 refugees. The highly symbolic Easter ritual of washing the feet commemorates the rite that Jesus practised with his Apostles before his Crucifixion.

"All of us together: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals. But all brothers and children of the same God," the pontiff said at a Mass at a migrant reception centre north of Rome.

Refugees deserve to be welcomed and offered safety

When Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016 it was at the centre of the migration crisis. He spent time talking to refugees in a large camp. “I am here to tell you, you are not alone,” he said.

The Holy Father then stunned many when he took three families from Syria, including six children, back to Rome aboard the papal plane to live at the Vatican. He would later invite a group of refugees to accompany him on stage at one of his Wednesday General Audience addresses which attract thousands of people. He told the enormous crowd, “They are our brothers.”

We should not use our privilege to deny others the same opportunities

In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis reminds us that everyone should have access to the goods of this world, regardless of where they were born:

“No one can remain excluded because of his or her place of birth, much less because of privileges enjoyed by others who were born in lands of greater opportunity. The limits and borders of individual states cannot stand in the way of this.”

Migration can be a force for good

Instead of just talking about a problem or a crisis, Pope Francis has consistently used language about refugees that invokes potential and beauty.

In 2022 he gave us a vision: “Thanks to [migrants and refugees], we have the chance to know better our world and its beautiful diversity. We can grow in our common humanity and build an ever-greater sense of togetherness.”

Pope Francis.jpg

Open letter to the Prime Minister: ‘Build bridges, not walls’

Pope Francis has called on world leaders to “build bridges, not walls” and show compassion for those fleeing their homes, whether it’s because of war, persecution or poverty.

Instead, the government's Illegal Migration Act will effectively shut the door on people needing protection and deport them to countries such as Rwanda.