Pope Francis hasn’t yet directly addressed President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigrants ― but the pontiff is clearly thinking about the large swath of humanity Trump is shoving to the margins.
Days after Trump signed a sweeping order dramatically restricting the number of refugees and foreign nationals allowed to enter the United States, Francis called on his flock to pray that the “poor, refugees, and marginalized” would find “welcome and comfort in our communities.”
Curiously, he mentions “skyscrapers” and “real estate deals” ― two things the president is intimately acquainted with.
“We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals but they abandon a part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery,” he said in the video published on February 2. “The result of this situation is that great sections of the population are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out. Don’t abandon them.”
The YouTube video announced Francis’ prayer intentions for the month of February. Every month, the pope encourages Catholics to join his worldwide prayer network in praying for a specific theme. February’s theme asks Catholics to “welcome the needy.”
The pope has often spoken out about the plight of migrants and refugees, emphasizing that welcoming them is a Christian duty. Mirroring Jesus’ actions in the Bible, the pope traditionally washes the feet of a few followers during the Christian holy day known as Maundy Thursday. Last year, he chose to wash and kiss the feet of 12 refugees. A few weeks later, after a trip to Greece, he took 12 Syrian Muslim refugees back to Rome with him on the papal plane.
On Wednesday, the Vatican’s deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, told an Italian Catholic television station that the Holy See is concerned about Trump’s order.
“Certainly there is worry because we are messengers of another culture, that of openness,” a top-ranking Vatican official, told TV2000. “Pope Francis, in fact, insists on the ability to integrate those who arrive in our societies and cultures.”
In the United States, some Catholic bishops and lay leaders offered strong condemnations of the ban. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an assembly composed of American bishops, is involved with helping refugees resettle and build new lives in the country.
“We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions,” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez said in a statement on behalf of the USCCB. “We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. ”
After the inauguration, Francis sent the new president a telegram that both congratulated Trump and reminded him of his responsibility to take care of the poor and marginalized. While the pontiff hasn’t spoken about the executive order itself, his views on refugees can probably be summed up in an exchange he had with pilgrims in Germany last October.
“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”