Pope in new blast at West's indifference to refugees

2 min

Vatican City (AFP)

Pope Francis on Tuesday blasted the indifference of Western society to the plight of refugees in another powerful intervention in the migrant crisis engulfing Europe.

"Too many times we have not welcomed you," the pontiff said in a video message directly addressed to refugees, three days after he brought three Syrian asylum-seeking families from the Greek island Lesbos to the Vatican.

"Forgive us the closure and indifference of our societies which fear the changes to our way of life and our way of thinking that your presence requires.

"Treated like a burden, a cost, in reality you are a gift. You bear witness to how our kind and merciful God is able to transform the evil and the injustice afflicting you into something good for everyone.

"Because each and everyone of you can be a bridge that brings together people who are far apart, that makes the meeting of different religions and cultures possible."

The video message was recorded to mark the 35th anniversary of the Astalli Centre, the Italian headquarters of the Jesuit Refugee Service. The service is an NGO established by the religious order the pope belongs to.

As he did during his high-profile trip to Lesbos, the Argentinian pontiff reiterated his belief that it is wrong to draw arbitrary distinctions between so-called economic migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war or persecution.

"Those who have fled their own land because of oppression, war, an environment degraded by pollution and desertification, or the unfair distribution of the planet's resources are all brothers with whom to share our bread, our home and our lives."