Following Sunday's Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI invited parents to educate their children in "universal fraternity." The call came just days after President Nicolas Sarkozy gave the go-ahead for the expulsion of certain illegal immigrants from France.
According to French news reports, last week President Nicolas Sarkozy followed through with his plan, and began expelling the first of nearly 1,000 illegal Roma and Gypsy immigrants, who are all due to be deported this month.
AFP reported that from Aug. 19-20 more than 200 individuals accepted a government handout of 300 euros (380 dollars) as they volunteered to be flown back to Romania. Those who have the same legal status in France and do not come forward will reportedly be ordered by the government to leave in September without any compensation.
Citing the message from Sunday's liturgy that all men are called to salvation, the Holy Father, in his French-language greeting, said that this is "an invitation to know how to accept legitimate differences among humans, just like Jesus came to bring men together from all nations and languages."
In this context, the Pope called for parents to educate children in "universal fraternity."
The recent policy of expulsion has been contested by a number of Church, human rights and opposition government officials. The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrant and Itinerant peoples, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, told Vatican Radio on Friday that additional pressure was put on the people in question as 51 illegal encampments had been dismantled since the beginning of the month, creating "a situation of non-freedom."
In a separate statement to AFP the archbishop argued that the deportations are against European norms, "One cannot generalize and take an entire group of people and kick them out."