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Pope Francis Puts Migrant Rights Front and Center—and Some Americans May Not Like It

Posted on Apr 12, 2017


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The head of the Catholic Church has chosen to battle anti-migrant forces, despite the deep divisions his position could create among his American followers.

From The Washington Post:

Catholic cardinals, bishops and priests are emerging as some of the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe. The moves come as Francis, who has put migrants at the top of his agenda, appears to be leading by example, emphasizing his support for their rights in sermons, speeches and deeds.

The pro-migrant drive risks dividing Catholics — many of whom in the United States voted for Trump. Some observers say it is also inserting the church into politics in a manner recalling the heady days of Pope John Paul II, who stared down communism and declared his opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Vatican is standing in open opposition to politicians like Trump not just on immigration but also on other issues, including climate-change policy.

But the focal point is clearly migrant rights. ... Those who have the pope’s ear say Francis is seeking to counter anti-migrant policies by appealing directly to voters. ... Overall, U.S. Catholics tend to be generally supportive of migrants rights. But the November election revealed a strong political divide along racial and ethnic lines: Sixty percent of white Catholics supported Trump, while 67 percent of Hispanic Catholics backed Clinton, according to exit polls. Surveys also show a clear difference on immigration. Nearly 90 percent of Hispanic Catholics say that undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements should be able to stay in the United States, while 65 percent of white Catholics say the same thing, according to a 2015 Pew survey.

Yet senior U.S. clerics have largely united behind the pope on the migrant issue. In the politically red state of Kansas, for instance, Catholic bishops issued a statement urging Trump to develop “generous and prudent immigration laws.” Even Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, seen as conservative, held a prayer service for immigrants and stated in a column that “how we treat [immigrants] will prove or disprove whether we take our Christian discipleship seriously.”

Read more here.

As the Post piece points out, Francis’ pro-migrant stance has not only been controversial in the U.S. but also in places such as Germany and France, countries battling the rise of their own far-right xenophobic politics.

READ: Archbishop José Gomez: We All Share Blame for America’s Broken Immigration System

But, as Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori says, “The poor [are] the hallmark of his papacy. It will affect our priorities, and it should.” And if there is any group of people most in need of being prioritized in this day and age, it is surely migrants fleeing war zones and destitution.

— Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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