In a statement for the Jan. 1, 2018, Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, Pope Francis has once again criticized anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, continuing his papal legacy of advocacy for migrants, refugees and immigrants. The statement, titled “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace,” is usually distributed to world leaders. In it, the pope says that anti-immigration attitudes sow violence and racism.

“Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great worry for all those concerned about the safety of every human being,” the pontiff wrote.

He also warned against the politicizing of an issue that is fundamentally humanitarian, writing, “Many destination countries have seen the spread of rhetoric decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals, and doing so demeans the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God.”

Reuters contextualizes the pope’s comments on a larger political scale:

Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made significant gains, with electors punishing Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy and pushing migration policy to the top of the agenda in talks to form a coalition government.

Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League, whose leader Matteo Salvini often gives fiery speeches against migrants, is expected to make gains in national elections next year.

Francis urged governments to make legal immigration easier but said that leaders should also recognise that many people move “mainly out of desperation, when their own countries offer neither safety nor opportunity, and every legal pathway appears impractical, blocked or too slow”.

While Pope Francis did not mention President Trump by name, the pontiff and the president have long disagreed about immigration policy. In February, it was reported that Pope Francis was critical of Trump’s effort to build a wall along the United States and Mexican border.

At the Vatican last winter, the pope reportedly said that Christians were meant to “not raise walls but bridges, to not respond to evil with evil, to overcome evil with good.” He added, “A Christian can never say: ‘I’ll make you pay for that.’ Never! That is not a Christian gesture. An offense is overcome with forgiveness, by living in peace with everyone. … A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Trump responded: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

In his statement for the World Day of Peace, the pope requested that the United Nations “draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees.” These, he said, should be “inspired by compassion, foresight and courage.” He added, “Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalisation of indifference.”

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