Pope Francis to activists: Stand with migrants, do not deny climate science, there is no such thing as ‘Islamic terrorism’

Pope Francis visiting a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece in 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Pope Francis visiting a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece in 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In a letter written to a leaders of grassroots organizations and social movements meeting this week in California, Pope Francis said Christians must resist the temptation to demonize others, protect the earth and fight against “the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few.”

Writing that the world is in the midst of an “historic turning point,” Francis said the “worsening crisis” presents both danger and opportunity, using language sure to recall tensions between some Catholic leaders and the fledgling Trump administration.

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“The grave danger is to disown our neighbors. When we do so, we deny their humanity and our own humanity without realizing it; we deny ourselves, and we deny the most important Commandments of Jesus,” Francis wrote in the letter, which was dated Feb. 10 and published in Spanish.

“By confronting terror with love, we work for peace.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican’s department for Integral Human Development, read the pope’s letter on Feb. 16 to participants at the opening of the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements meeting in Modesto, a new event based on similar international meetings previously held in Rome and in Bolivia. The California gathering includes participants from a dozen countries.

“I know that you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice,” the pope’s letter read.

In his letter, Francis condemned what he dubbed a global “hypocritical attitude” toward suffering and he called for more action to address a range of social ills.

“Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates,” he wrote. “The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real.”

Francis condemned leaders who rely on “fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a ‘non-neighbor.’”

Though he wrote in the letter that he was not speaking about any particular leaders but of “a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world” that “poses a grave danger for humanity,” the letter, delivered in a border state with a large Hispanic population, is sure to suggest tensions between church leaders and U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

Last year, the pope said political leaders who propose building border walls were not Christian, a statement interpreted by the Trump campaign as a slight against the candidate.

More recently, Catholic bishops in the United States have condemned several executive orders signed by Mr. Trump placing restrictions on immigration and refugee resettlement, including an executive order to move forward with plans to build a border wall.

Rather than looking to political leaders as models to solve the world’s various crises, the pope said in his letter that “Jesus teaches us a different path.”

“Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not,” he wrote. “You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart.”

Francis also repeated his warning against describing terrorism as Islamic, another major theme of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

“Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist,” Francis wrote.

“There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia,” he continued.

Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized his predecessor for refusing to label acts of terror committed by Muslims “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he has used often since his election.

“By confronting terror with love, we work for peace,” the pope wrote.

Finally, the pope reiterated his plea for believers to defend creation against exploitation, issuing a subtle warning against those who deny challenges facing the environment.

The “ecological crisis is real,” the pope wrote, and though conceding that science “is not the only form of knowledge,” he said, “we also know what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature.”

Mr. Trump has called climate change a hoax and vowed to loosen federal regulations designed to protect the environment in order to support business.

For his part, the pope said the time to act to protect the environment is at hand.

“Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out,” he warned. “Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Jeremiah Myer
3 years 4 months ago

I really like Pope Francis! Bless him. He is speaking about COMMUNITY something that has been undervalued in Christianity for a long time. To not find value and truth in his words about immigrants, climate change and terrorism demonstrates a complete lack charity and love for others.

Susan Cummings
3 years 4 months ago

Pope Francis's comments are true for some. The Christians in the Middle East that our Muslim Brothers and Sisters turned their backs on, human beings from all over the world, especially the Mexican border who are kidnapped and abused in many ways, such as trafficking. Africa the same. I agree for those people to seek refuge, because that is what the statute of liberty stands for; however, the Pope also speaks of judiciary clarity, which means "vetting" and making sure anyone from anywhere is following the laws of that nation, but also for the nation to be clear and concise about their laws, and not have one administration do one thing and the next administration do something entirely different. This is why our laws in America is so important to uphold; otherwise, it turns into a very hurtful and harmful situation for those who are really seeking legitimate refuge. It harms the already existing victim more than anyone else. Laws are important, and a nation must adhere to their own. If they do not, the very people they claim to protect are the ones they are exploiting. This is what I believe Pope Francis means by his refugee language. He is a philosopher and a theologian and one must seek the message within his words. He is being chastised for believing in the same things our country believes, by those of whom he supports.

His "science" on climate change is also correct. Not because of weird science, but because the earth is always changing, and some people do harm to it via war, testing, garbage in our atmosphere and in our oceans. Also landfills. Fires set by either nature or on purpose for political reasons, especially when they claim to care for the environment. "Hypocrite" is the word I believe is the "key word" for many of his letters and speeches. Those who claim to care so much, care the least. Empathy lacks where hypocrisy is strongest.

Our country, America, needs to vet those via our clearly defined and upheld laws who wish access. Those who seek asylum because of legitimate dangers are always welcomed, but for those who seek it to cause chaos and harm to others, or whom do not wish to assimilate for a better life, will not enter if our laws are clearly known and upheld. The victims of real dangers will and can be the focus point, not the frauds.

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