“You Are Instead a Gift”: Pope Francis’s Response to Global Migration and the Refugee Crisis
In an era marked by record levels of migration, Pope Francis counters contemporary anti-immigrant sentiment through his rhetoric, writing, and symbolic actions, reimaging unfavorable attitudes toward migrants. Francis’s speeches and pronouncements characterize migrants as a “gift” to receiving countries and as having “the face of God and flesh of Christ.” Francis has accompanied Syrian refugees from Greece to Italy as a “gesture of welcome” and washed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu, and Catholic refugees at Holy Thursday services. His international travel choices are guided in part by the desire to greet migrants in their receiving/host environments and to address the anti-immigrant environments they inhabit. Francis links the destruction of migrants’ places of origin and their need to migrate with an unequal distribution of resources, disregard for the planet’s resources by capitalism run rampant, and conflict fanned by intolerance and greed. In restructuring Vatican offices, Francis has raised the prominence of migration, placing it in a new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that reports directly to him. However, despite the Pope’s attention to migrants and his effort to change the frame in which migrants are viewed, the chapter finds limited impact to date of the “Francis Effect” on Catholics’ views on migration.