Pope Francis Calls on Diplomats to Protect Marriage, Respond to Migrants with Mercy and Sobriety

By Mitch Boersma Published on January 11, 2016

In a robust plea to address the migrant crisis in Europe with mercy and sobriety, and to defend the role of marriage and family, Pope Francis addressed the corps of diplomats accredited to the Holy See on Monday.

An annual affair generally considered among the most substantial papal foreign policy addresses, Francis’s remarks centered on the current “grave migration crisis” — with a particular focus on the wave of migrants into western and central Europe.

But first, Francis reflected on his journeys and messages from the past year, one in which he focused on the primary role of marriage and the family. For Francis, the process of rebuilding a culture of mercy begins with renewing our commitment to protect marriage and the family — which he calls “the first and most important school of mercy.”

Recalling the message he delivered at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia — as well as in the Philippines and during the Synod of Bishops — Francis warned against the “growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.” When the central role of marriage and the family is uprooted by a society, “those who pay the price are the young, who are often vulnerable and uncertain, and the elderly, who end up being neglected and abandoned.”

Turning to the migration crisis in Europe and the Middle East, Pope Francis (as he so often does) begins with Christ, identifying the plight of the migrant as that facing Mary, Joseph, and their newborn son: “Now as then, we hear the angel say: ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you’ (Mt 2:13). His is the voice heard by many migrants who would never have left their homeland had they not been forced to.”

As migrants continue responding to this call of the angel by the millions, Francis acknowledged the practical difficulties of accommodating all of them as they make their way into Europe, which “appear[s] to be overburdening the system of reception painstakingly built on the ashes of the Second World War, a system that is still an acknowledged beacon of humanity.”

And more than just a matter of logistics, Francis recognizes the growing number of substantial concerns that need to be weighed when considering how do deal with the influx of migrants, including “changes in the cultural and social structures of the receiving countries, the reshaping of certain regional geopolitical balances,” as well as “fears about security, further exacerbated by the growing threat of international terrorism.”

For Francis, the core of the problem is an identity crisis in Europe. Having abandoned its Christian roots, western Europe has created a cultural vacuum in which “extremism and fundamentalism find fertile soil not only in the exploitation of religion for purposes of power, but also in the vacuum of ideals and the loss of identity — including religious identity — which dramatically marks the so-called West.”

His solution? Europe must reclaim its “great cultural and religious heritage.” Only when the west awakens its Christian roots will it be able “to defend the centrality of the human person and to find the right balance between its twofold moral responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants.”

Read the whole address here.

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