In a new interview, Pope Francis said he was “on the side of the bishops’ conference” when it comes to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from people crossing the border illegally, mostly coming from Central America.
Speaking to Reuters, Francis said, “Let it be clear that in these things, I respect the bishops’ conference.”
The U.S. bishops began their bi-annual meeting last week with Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the bishops’ conference, issuing a statement condemning the policy of separating families at the border, emphasizing that “separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
DiNardo later announced the bishops will explore the possibility of sending a delegation to the U.S.-Mexico border to inspect detention facilities and to offer a physical sign of solidarity with migrants and refugees.
In his remarks to Reuters – which provided Vatican journalists with an Italian transcript – the pope insisted, “it is not just about Trump.”
Francis said “the governments of the past” have also pursued such policies, noting his Feb. 18, 2016, Mass in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico – which is on the U.S. border – was drawing attention to the plight of migrants during the Obama administration.
“There was already a problem,” the pope said.
In the interview conducted on Sunday night, Francis spoke about the migrant and refugee crisis around the world, including in Europe, where Italy’s nationalist-populist coalition recently rejected a boat full of asylum seekers.
“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive. You have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout all of Europe,” Francis said, alluding to the fact that some European countries – and specifically mentioning Italy and Greece; as well as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon in the Middle East – have accepted a disproportionate number of refugees.
“Some governments are working on it, and people have to be settled in the best possible way, but creating psychosis is not the cure,” he said. “Populism does not resolve things. What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence.”
Francis also called on Europe to invest in Africa to tackle the immigration crisis at its root.
“So many times that they go to Africa is to exploit it. I talked about this with [German chancellor Angela] Merkel and she agrees that we have to invest in Africa, but investing properly and giving opportunities for work, not going in to exploit it,” said the pontiff.
This article was updated with information from the original transcript provided by Reuters.