“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:34 (The Israel Bible™)
In keeping with the teachings of the Bible on accepting the stranger, Pope Francis encouraged a group of schoolchildren to see migrants as brothers, Breitbart reported. “Migrants are not a danger, they are in danger,” he chanted with the children.
The Catholic leader met a group of four hundred schoolchildren in southern Italy Saturday, in what the Vatican is calling a “summit on the migrant emergency”. The students were all from the Calabria region, an area heavily affected by the arriving waves of migrants. Most of these are from sub-Saharan Africa.
The meeting took place in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. The pontif presented the children with several items in his possession from those seeking shelter on Europe’s shores, including a life-jacket of a six-year-old Syrian girl who did not survive the trip. He also shared drawings he received while visiting a refugee welcome center on the Greek island of Lesbos.
The pope took time to embrace a young Nigerian boy named Osayande, who watched his family perish trying to reach Italy. Osayande has since been adopted by an Italian family.
After praying with the students on behalf of the migrants, especially the young girl whose life-jacket he clutched, Pope Francis opened a discussion with the children on the topic.
The stranger, Pope Francis explained to his audience, is not bad or dangerous just because he looks different; after all, humans are all children of the same Father in heaven. Referencing the parable of the Good Samaritan, he told the children to welcome newcomers as brothers and sisters, and welcoming means taking care of others.
One participant asked the pope how someone could consider himself Catholic and attend church, yet reject migrants, leading the pontif to explain hypocrisy. He urged the children to be generous instead of selfish. Another boy labelled people who reject migrants “beasts”.
While his words in support of migrants Saturday were strong, Pope Francis recently expressed reservations regarding open-door migration to Europe.
Speaking to French Catholic daily La Croix, he told his interviewer, “it is a fair and responsible question” to examine whether Europe should accept all migrants who arrive, adding that “we cannot open the doors irrationally.”
Several thousand migrants arrived on Italian shores last week alone, with some 60 bodies recovered and hundreds of others missing at sea. Many of the migrants were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard in the Strait of Sicily.