For Cardinal Vegliò, closing the door to migrants isn't Christian

A CRS tent aiding refugees and migrants in Europe Credit Catholic Relief Services Sean Callahan CNA 10 21 15 A CRS tent aiding refugees and migrants in Europe. | Catholic Relief Services' Sean Callahan.

On Thursday the Vatican's longtime point-man on the topic of migration said that the issue is an urgent one that can't be solved by the "human egoism" that closes doors and fosters a xenophobic attitude toward foreigners.

"It's not Christian to be xenophobic, it's not Christian to not welcome a migrant, who has rights and also duties," Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, told journalists Oct. 13.

When an immigrant arrives "they need to be recognized by the country who welcomes them," he said.

He emphasized that a migrant must respect "the traditions and identity of the culture where they go, just as the country where they arrive must respect the dignity and the identity of the immigrant."

"Each one, whether it is the welcoming country or the migrant, has rights and duties," he said, noting that the controversy over the phenomenon is unfortunately reflected at a political level.

"We see it here in Europe. We see it also a bit in the United States," he said, explaining that in his opinion, everyone "wants his own backyard, their corridor, their sacred space and they don't want to be disturbed."

This attitude, he said, is "very egotistical... (it's) human egoism, which isn't human if you don't consider (migrants) as children of God, as we are."

Cardinal Vegliò, who has headed the pontifical council since 2009, spoke following the release of Pope Francis' message for the 2017 World Day of Migrants, "Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless." The day will be celebrated Jan. 15, 2017.

In comments to CNA, the cardinal said that ahead of the presidential elections in the United States, it's important for Christians to remember that "a migrant is a person as we are, a person with inalienable rights just as ours, but at the same time the state has the sacred right to defend their own citizens."

"It's a delicate choice between respect for one's own identity and the welcoming of others," he said, explaining that these are "the fundamental principles that go [not only] for the United States on the vigil of the presidential elections, but that go for all. The Church has always taught this."

When asked by journalists about the situation of migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, who cross the border from Mexico into the United States, Cardinal Vegliò acknowledged that Mexico "isn't an exemplary country for what regards migrants."

Although Mexican citizens "justly protest the closure of that wall that would separate them from the United States," the migrants who come to Mexico from Central America don't necessarily "find themselves in better conditions," he said.

"All of us know how many problems there currently are in the world that center on migration," he said, noting that it's a global issue affecting not only Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, but also Europe.

"All over the world there is this problem, in some places more serious, in some less. But it's a problem that won't go away right away. It will also continue to get worse than what it is now," the cardinal observed.

He stressed the need to find realistic solutions, but recognized that while welcoming migrants is a duty, "it's not possible to receive everyone."

"Migration isn't resolved welcoming everyone, which is impossible because every state has the right to and duty protect their citizens," he said, but noted that the problem can't be solved "saying 'get out, no one can come'," either.

"It's a problem that needs to be resolved, that needs a solution," he said, noting that unfortunately Europe is "very egotistical, it bothers everyone to have one more" migrant in their midst.

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"For migrants, however many there are, it's something that disturbs our lives, in the beautiful area, in the things we have, and we don't want to be disturbed. It's not human, it's not Christian," he said, adding that the Church "tries to raise awareness" of this fact.

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