Pope Francis Decries World’s Indifference to Refugees

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday decried “the culture of comfort” that leads to indifference in the face of a global immigration and refugee crisis.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on Migrant and Refugee World Day, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday. (AP photo/Andrew Medichini)

The pope who has made caring for immigrants a hallmark of his papacy spoke during a Mass for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.

“We cannot be indifferent to the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty, to the bleak isolation, contempt and discrimination experienced by those who do not belong to ‘our group,'” Francis said.

“We cannot remain insensitive, our hearts deadened, before the misery of so many innocent people. We must not fail to weep. We must not fail to respond.”

Francis has often spoken of the need to be welcoming to immigrants, and traveled to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013 on his first trip as pope, to comfort refugees. His message found political resistance in Italy’s previous government, during which the former hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, campaigned to prevent the arrival in Italy of immigrants rescued at sea by humanitarian groups.

During his homily Sunday, the pope noted that weapons that fuel wars are often produced and sold in other regions “which are then unwilling to take in the refugees generated by these conflicts.”

Many immigrants and refugees from conflicts throughout the world attended the Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which closed with the unveiling of a bronze statue by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz depicting immigrants packed on a boat.

“This statue depicts a group of immigrants from various cultures and over different historic periods. I wanted this artistic work here in St. Peter’s Square to remind everyone of the evangelical challenge of hospitality,” Francis said.

During the Mass, a multiethnic chorus sang and the incense burned came from a refugee camp in southern Ethiopia, where refugees are rekindling a 600-year-old tradition of collecting incense. The Vatican said the incense “reminds us that refugees can also thrive, not just survive.”

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