Pope Francis said migrants are not numbers, but persons with feelings that need ongoing protection, adding that “particular concern must be shown for migrant children and their families.”

The pope’s words to a meeting on immigration taking place in the Vatican come as the U.S. government is drawing criticism over its policy of separating families who seek asylum by crossing the border illegally.

The U.S. bishops, who are holding their spring meeting in Fort Lauderdale, issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the policy, as well as the Trump administration’s recent announcement not to allow women fleeing domestic violence to seek asylum in the United States.

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In a message to a colloquium marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Vatican, Francis said that the fundamental rights and dignity of immigrants “need to be protected and defended.”

“I would like to point out that the issue of migration is not simply one of numbers, but of persons, each with his or her own history, culture, feelings and aspirations,” the pope said.

“These persons, our brothers and sisters, need ‘ongoing protection,’ independently of whatever migrant status they may have,” he continued.

In addition to migrant children and families, Francis also said particular concern must be shown to those who are victims of human trafficking rings, and those displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters and persecution.

“All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of ‘comfortable and silent complicity’ that worsens their helplessness; they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion and devotion,” he said.

The pope also mentioned two initiatives of the United Nations which are scheduled to be finalized later this year: An international conference and the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration; and a global compact on refugees which hopes to achieve a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees.

Francis urged international actors to “ground responsibility for the shared global management of international migration in the values of justice, solidarity and compassion.”

“This demands a change in mindset: We must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society,” the pontiff said, adding the assistance of the entire international community is needed.

“Such international cooperation is important at every stage of migration: From departing one’s country of origin all the way to reaching one’s destination, as well as facilitating reentry and transit,” Francis said.

“In each of these countries, migrants are vulnerable, feeling alone and isolated. The recognition of this fact is vitally important if we wish to give a concrete and dignified response to this humanitarian challenge.”