Pope urges Italians to help migrants as far-right on course to win election | Pope Francis

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Pope Francis urged Italians to help migrants as voting unfolded in a general election widely expected to bring a right-wing anti-immigration coalition to power.

Speaking at the end of an open-air mass in the southern Italian city of Matera, the pope recalled that Sunday coincided with the Catholic Church’s World Day for Migrants and Refugees. “Migrants must be welcomed, accompanied, promoted and integrated,” he told the gathered faithful.

“Let us renew our commitment to build the future according to God’s plan: a future in which migrants and refugees can live in peace and dignity.

Francis made no direct reference to the election, but his message rang out loud and clear across the country as millions of Italians lined up to elect a new government.

Migration has been a central theme in the electoral campaign of far-right parties, led by the leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, who could become the country’s first far-right leader since Mussolini and who said once The Italians were to “repatriate the migrants to their country, then sink the boats that rescued them”.

This summer, Meloni and another of his coalition leaders, Matteo Salvini, a former interior minister who took high-profile steps to block the arrival of asylum seekers at Italian ports, rallied against this whom they described as fake refugees and depicted the arrival of people. seeking asylum in Italy as an “invasion”.

Meloni, whose party has roots in neo-fascism, said if she became prime minister she intended to set up a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to stop migration to Italy.

“May the Kingdom of God be realized with them, without exclusion,” the pope said. “And we can thank these ‘brothers and sisters’ because they can help our communities grow and prosper economically, culturally and spiritually.

This is not the first time that the pope has criticized far-right parties and their anti-migration stances. Francis has previously criticized former US President Donald Trump and the “new culture of defending territories by building walls”, which has “bred so much headache and so much suffering”. He also urged Hungary to “stretch out its arms to everyone” in a seemingly veiled critique of Viktor Orbán’s anti-migrant policies.

Last year, returning from a visit to Lesvos, the Greek island long at the center of Europe’s refugee crisis, Francis attacked Europe, citing his indifference and cynical contempt as people continue to die during sea crossings.

On Sunday, Francis also asked Italians to have more children. “I would like to ask Italy: more births, more children,” he said. Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and Francis has often lamented its “demographic winter”.

Francis, 85, appeared tired during the visit, which was scheduled before Italy’s snap election was called and came a day after he made a separate trip to the hilltop town of Assisi umbrian. Francis is using a cane and a wheelchair this year due to strained knee ligaments that make walking and standing difficult.

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