ROME – Speaking about the need to welcome, accompany, promote, and integrate migrants when they arrive in a new country, Pope Francis said that when it comes to the United States, “a people of migrants,” the Irish brought the whiskey and the Italians brought the mafia.
To understand migrants today, the pope said, the only thing most people have to do is look to their own roots because “most of us are children or grandchildren of migrants,” himself included, as his parents arrived in Argentina from northern Italy.
Recalling a dialogue with “someone from the United States” who told him that Americans are not migrants because “we have already rooted here,” Francis repeated the answer he gave then: “Don’t lose your memory: You are a people of migrants, of Irish migrants and Italian migrants. The Irish brought you whiskey and the Italians brought you the mafia. Always look at the roots.”
The pope’s remarks came on Wednesday, as he spoke off the cuff in a private audience with members of the International Solidarity Fund, which describes itself as a “unique alliance catalyzing partnerships for the most vulnerable across the private sector, the development sector, and Catholic communities.” Their vision is a world where “everyone has access to social and economic opportunity and a healthy life, and where essential human dignity is fully respected.”
They said they were inspired by Pope Francis’s leadership to focus on empowering the most vulnerable – in line with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals – and to do so in a way that is consistent with the mission, values and social teachings of the Catholic Church.
Francis told the group that they need to go to the peripheries if they want to follow the style of Jesus, who went to the “peripheries, of the body and of the soul, because there are people who are well off but have their soul destroyed.”
Closeness, he insisted, is “God’s style,” and though some might want to stay away from the rest of the world to have a “clean soul,” they have “a heart dirty with selfishness.”
“Going to the peripheries, going to the people who don’t count, the discarded of society — because we are living the culture of discarding, and you discard people — going there is just what Jesus did,” he said.
The pope reiterated his oft-stated call to welcome, accompany, promote, and integrate migrants.
Doing charitable work and just leaving them be, Francis said, is not enough. It is important to integrate them into a country, help them get an education and a job, because if not, they become ghettoized, and their children suffer the consequences.
“An unintegrated migrant is halfway, and he is dangerous,” he said. “It is dangerous for him, poor guy, because he will always be a beggar. It is also dangerous for everyone. (It is important ) to integrate, not to have migrants as a pebble in your shoes, which is harassing.”
Francis also asked those present to contemplate Europe, saying that the continent “needs migrants.”
“There is a demographic winter, where there are no children, where the future is narrower every time: Let those good people come, but you have to integrate them!” he insisted. “And for that I thank you so much for what you do with them. It is not handouts, no, it is fraternity.”
Referencing the groups’ name, Global Solidarity Fund, Francis also urged them to “look for a new kind of economy,” because the current system needs to be converted.
“We have to convert from the liberal economy to the economy shared by the people, the community economy,” he said. “We cannot live with a pattern of economics that comes from liberals and the Enlightenment. Neither can we live with a pattern of economics that comes from communism. We need a Christian economy.”