Earlier this month the Vatican announced the installation of free showers for the homeless in public bathrooms in the city-state. Now it emerges that the Pope wants the rest of Europe to follow suit and provide political asylum and public services on a much grander scale.
In a speech to the European Parliament and Council of Europe, Pope Francis told Europeans that they have to stop being self-absorbed and open their borders to immigrants and refugees from war-torn regions. Never one to mince words, Francis described Europe as giving off the â€œgeneral impression of weariness and agingâ€ andâ€”with chauvinistic rhetoric that assumes women are useful only when they procreateâ€”he compared her to an elderly â€œgrandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant.â€ So much for â€œrespect your elders.â€
Francisâ€™s mild misogyny aside, the Catholic Churchâ€™s compassionate position on immigration is familiar to US Catholics and politicians. Conservative and progressive Catholic Bishops alike have rallied behind reforms to the immigration system.
â€œYou shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in Egypt.â€
In the case of illegal immigration in the southern states of the U.S., it is easy to dismiss the Catholic position as religious self-interest. A high proportion of illegal immigrants are Catholic, and, thus, skeptics see advocacy for these immigrants as the Catholic Church looking after its own.
Francisâ€™s latest statements demonstrate that the Church really means it. The refugees that Francis wants to see welcomed in Europe are predominantly those seeking asylum from war-torn and disease-struck regions in Africa and the Middle East. While he received a round of applause, his speech comes as something of a shock to Europeans, who see themselves as more socially progressive than their political allies in the United States. [More]