Is Pope Francis a Radical on Immigration?

For nearly a half-century, National Migration Week has been observed in the United States to highlight the situation of immigrants and refugees and unite in prayer to accompany them. The theme for this year’s observance (January 5-11) is “Promoting a Church and a World for All,” and reflects the Church as a welcoming place for all God’s children.

If you think Pope Francis is a radical or, on the other hand, think the church is not doing enough for migrants and refugees, you will be interested to read the following 9 quotes from Pope Pius XII in 1952 from a document of over 15,000 words filled with lots of concrete examples of the Church’s teaching and practice.

He begins with the Holy Family…

  • “The émigré Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.”
  • “Indeed, there never has been a period during which the Church has not been active in behalf of migrants, exiles and refugees. But to be brief, we will recount only her work of recent years.”

He speaks of his own concerns with American Bishops

  • “You know indeed how preoccupied we have been and with what anxiety we have followed those who have been forced by revolutions in their own countries, or by unemployment or hunger to leave their homes and live in foreign lands.” December 24, 1948 to the American Bishops:
  • “We expressed the same view in our Christmas Address of 1948. It is better, we said, to facilitate the migration of families into those countries able to provide them with the essentials of life, than to send foodstuffs at great expense to refugee camps.
    Therefore, when Senators from the United States, who were members of a Committee on Immigration, visited Rome a few years ago, we again urged them to try to administer as liberally as possible the overly restrictive provisions of their immigration laws.”

The seriousness of the situation in the world some 70 years ago

  • “Very many fugitives of all ages and every state of life, driven abroad by the disastrous war, cry pitifully to us. They live in exile, under guard, and exposed to disease and all manner of dangers.
    We are not unaware of the great contributions of public bodies and private citizens to the relief of this stricken multitude; and we, in a continuation of those efforts of charity with which we began our Pontificate, have truly done all in our power to relieve the greatest needs of these millions.
    But the condition of these exiles is indeed so critical, so unstable that it cannot last much longer. Therefore, since it is our duty to urge all generous and well-minded souls to relieve as much as possible the wretchedness and want of these exiles, we most earnestly implore those in authority to do justice to all who have been driven far away from homes by the tempest of war and who long above all to live in quiet once more.”

Of his own pontificate, he writes…

  • “there daily appeared more bold and violent symptoms of unrestrained desire for extending national boundaries, for an idolized supremacy of rage and the unbridled tendency to occupy foreign lands, and for reliance on might rather than on right with the consequent cruel and shameless deportation of entire nations and the forced migration of peoples. These new crimes were, indeed, far worse than the ancient ones.”

we were especially solicitous for prisoners of war, refugees, exiles and our other sons who, for whatever reason, had to wander far from their homelands. And along with these, our chief concerns were children and orphans.
Then when peace was finally restored, at least in part, the necessity of providing for millions of refugees became daily more urgent. Many of them were prevented from returning to their homes; while at the same time, a large number of other people in many over-populated countries were oppressed by want and had to seek refuge in other lands.”

  • The war that broke out in Palestine in 1948 brought new reasons for sadness and mourning. Innumerable refugees underwent horrible suffering, being forced to abandon their possessions and to wander throughout Libya, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the district of Gaza. United in a common disaster, both the rich and the poor, the Christians and the non-Christians, offered a sad and mournful spectacle.

Finally, he speaks what the Vatican has done in Rome.

  • “While the disastrous war waged, there converged on Rome almost hourly a vast mass of people, children, women, the sick and the aged, to seek from the common father of all, a place of safety and refuge. They came from the towns and villages laid waste by the invading enemies, particularly from devastated areas of Italy. This caused us to enlarge, yet further, the scope of our charity, for the cries of so many exiles and refugees touched our heart, and, moved by that same pity, we felt the need to repeat those words of Our Lord: “I have compassion on the multitude.”

“For this reason, we threw open the doors of all our buildings at the Vatican as well as at the Lateran, and especially those at Castel Gandolfo; and at the Roman Basilicas, as well as these religious communities, seminaries and ecclesiastical colleges of Rome. So while almost the whole world was aflame with bitter hatred and the blood of brothers flowed freely, the Sacred City of Rome and the buildings mentioned became centers and homes of charity.”

After a lengthy review of all that the Church has consistently taught and concretely done he explains why he has written such a lengthy document

  • “Besides, it seemed that these things badly needed to be publicized, especially in our times, when the provident enterprises of Mother Church are so unjustly assailed by her enemies and scorned and overlooked, even in the very field of charity where she was first to break ground and often the only to continue its cultivation.​”

Hopefully, these excerpts will give a flavor of the entire 15,000 word document.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with how we are living up to the mission of St. Vincent de Paul, and how you can help.