Pope Francis: Countries should accept only as many refugees as they can integrate
While countries should be open to taking in refugees and migrants in need they also must be prudent about only accepting as many as they can integrate into their societies, Pope Francis said.
In a press conference aboard the papal flight back to Rome after a two-day visit to Sweden, the pontiff was asked about countries that have accepted large numbers of migrants but are now considering stricter border controls.
“I believe that … you cannot close your heart to a refugee,” said Francis, but added that governments must use prudence to “make a calculation for how [refugees] can be settled because you must not only receive refugees but proceed to integrate them.”
“If a country has a capacity of 20 for integration, let’s say, do it up to that,” the pope suggested. “If more, do more.”
“But always, an open heart,” Francis continued. “It is not human to close your hearts. And in the long run, you pay [for it].”
Francis spoke about refugees in a 40-minute conference in which he also talked about the process of secularization in Europe, his recent visit at the Vatican with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and the Catholic church’s ban on the priestly ordination of women.
The pope was asked about migrants in the context of Sweden’s historically high acceptance rate for asylum seekers. In 2015, the country accepted some 160,000 but is now considering stricter controls.
Francis said he was particularly grateful to Sweden as a native South American for its welcoming of refugees escaping the region’s military dictatorships in the 1970s and 80s.
“Sweden has a long tradition of welcoming; not only receiving, but integrating, searching right away for homes, schools, work; integrating a people,” he said.
Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.
Photo Credits: Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Malmo, Sweden, to Rome Nov. 1. (CNS/Paul Haring)