Pope Francis denounced Europe’s indifference to immigrants who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea, elevating an Italian bishop and an Italian-born missionary to sainthood.
The Pope questioned whether Europe welcomes immigrants or exploits them
The comments came as the pontiff canonized two Italian saints known for their charity towards immigrants.
Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party secured a victory for the centre-right coalition, has been highly critical of the refugees.
Francis backed away from prepared remarks to describe Europe’s treatment of immigrants as “disgusting, sinful and criminal.”
He noted that people from outside the continent are often left to die during dangerous sea crossings or pushed back into Libya, where they end up in camps he referred to as “lager,” the German word for lager camps. Nazi rally.
He also recalled the plight of Ukrainians fleeing the war, which he said “causes us great suffering.”
“The exclusion of immigrants is scandalous,” the pope said, drawing applause from the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.
They met for the canonizations of Don Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, an Italian bishop who founded an order to help Italian emigrants in 1887, and Artdime Zatti, an Italian who emigrated to Argentina in 1897 and dedicated his life as a lay worker there to helping sick.
“Indeed, the situation of migrants is criminal. They are left to die in front of us, making the Mediterranean the largest cemetery in the world,” he said.
“The situation of migrants is disgusting, sinful, criminal. Not to open doors to those in need. No, we exclude them, we send them to lager, where they are exploited and sold as slaves”.
He urged worshipers to consider the treatment of migrants, asking: ‘Do we welcome them as brothers or do we exploit them?’
The pontiff said the two new saints “remind us of the importance of walking together.”
Migration, a key issue in the Italian elections
Pope Francis’s words contrast sharply with those of Italy’s future prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party led the center-right coalition to victory, and who has had harsh words for immigrants and foreigners who they live in Italy.
Ms Meloni has called for a naval blockade to prevent migrant boats from leaving North African shores and has proposed screening potential asylum seekers in Africa, not Europe.
He also harshly criticized economic migrants, saying Italy should accept only those fleeing wars, such as Ukrainians, not those seeking work.
It is also against access to citizenship for children of immigrants born in Italy or attending Italian schools.
At a rally in Milan a few weeks before the election, Meloni told the crowd: “I don’t want this nation to disappear, I don’t think that the problem of the declining birth rate can be solved by inviting immigrants, as the left says. I want our families to have children.”
Italy’s right wing has long insisted that citizenship should only pass through Italian bloodlines.
The most recent proposal from the left-wing parties calls for children of immigrants who were born in Italy or arrived before the age of 12 to be allowed to apply after completing at least five years of education in Italy.
That proposal has now been shelved.