Pope decries world’s indifference to migrants and refugees

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Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the Migrant and Refugee World Day, in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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

The pope who has made caring for migrants 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.”

The pontiff has often spoken of the need to be welcoming to migrants, traveling 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 populist government, during which the former hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, campaigned to prevent the arrival in Italy of migrants rescued at sea by humanitarian groups.

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

Many migrants 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 migrants packed on a boat.

“This statue depicts a group of migrants 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.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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