Pope’s support for asylum seekers remains strong
Since his first official papal visit to Lampedusa, Pope Francis’ efforts to promote compassion for people seeking asylum has inspired hope and unity around the world.
Pope Francis’ unfailing support for people fleeing persecution has been evident since his election. With his first official papal visit taking him to Lampedusa, Italy’s equivalent of Christmas Island, the Pope characterised himself as a voice for the voiceless.
In his message at Lampedusa, he demonstrates how we have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, saying:
“We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business! …Their condition cannot leave us indifferent.”
For Catholics around the world, this event served as a wake-up-call in understanding how our faith promotes a duty to care for those who suffer, including people seeking asylum.
Since that time, the Pope has continued to call on Catholics to take action in supporting people seeking asylum. In December 2013, the Pope called on Catholic communities to use their empty convents and monasteries to provide shelter to people seeking asylum. He has also taken the time to welcome refugees and asylum seekers, a central part of his celebration of the 100th World Day for Migrants and Refugees in Rome. The Pope has become a beacon of hope for asylum seekers.
More recently, Pope Francis has called for urgent action in response to the sinking of a vessel causing the deaths of over 700 asylum seekers. The incident marks one of the deadliest boat tragedy to have occurred in the Mediterranean. Pope Francis called for EU leaders to “act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies for recurring”.
Whilst the Pope is yet to make his way to Australia, his message about the plight of asylum seekers still resonates here. Taking up Pope Francis’s message, Australian Catholic Bishops have condemned asylum-seeker policies from both sides of politics. Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge commented that “Pope Francis would (say) that the current policy supported by both sides of politics is morally unacceptable and shames our country and the need for it to be reconsidered is urgent”.
Mario Christodoulou, Pope Francis would be appalled by treatment of asylum seekers on Manus Island, says Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, ABC News, 2014.
Tony Gentile, Pope says empty convents and monasteries should house refugees, Reuters, 2013.
Pope Francis urges more international action on migrants, BBC News, 2015.
Frank Brennan, Pope Francis and Australia’s social justice agenda, Eureka Street, 2013.
Judith Sudilovsky, Pope’s visit brings hope to Holy Land refugees, OSV Newsweekly, 2014.