ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis, putting President Trump on notice, warned on Sunday that those who close borders "will become prisoners of the walls that they build."
The remarks came as the pope was returning from a visit to Morocco, where he worked to further his priorities of supporting migrants and establishing closer relations between the Roman Catholic Church and moderate Islam.
Mr. Trump threatened Friday to seal off the border with Mexico and moved to cut aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to punish them for failing to stop a surge in migrant crossings into the United States.
Francis, who suggested in 2016 that Mr. Trump was "not Christian" for his belief in building walls, rather than bridges, was also asked aboard the papal airplane about the Spanish government's efforts to keep out migrants, many of whom depart from Morocco.He said he could not imagine the "cruelty" of using barbed wire to stop people seeking better lives in Spain, adding, "This is not a way to resolve the grave problem of migration."
The pope's remarks were in keeping with his two-day trip to Rabat, Morocco's capital, where he offered his support on Sunday to the country'stiny Christian population. He began the day visiting Spanish nuns who provide medical care to children and teach women to read; he then spoke at the Cathedral of Rabat, where he greeted a 95-year-old monk who survived a 1996 massacre in Algeria.
In a country with only 46 priests and 178 nuns — most of them foreigners, like Morocco's two Spanish bishops — the faithful hardly filled half of the cathedral.
But the pope used that as an opportunity. "Christians are a small minority in this country," he said. "Yet, to my mind, this is not a problem, even though I realize that at times it can be difficult for some of you."Francis compared them to "a little yeast that Mother Church wants to mix in with a great quantity of flour until all of it is leavened."
He said that a preoccupation with numbers — to "occupy all the spaces" — missed the point. Proselytism is a dead end, he said, while leading by example is the key to the faith's vitality.
"For being a Christian is not about adhering to a doctrine, or a temple or an ethnic group," he said.
He thanked local clerics and religious leaders for helping Muslims, the poor and migrants, saying, "In this way, you will unmask and lay bare every attempt to exploit differences and ignorance in order to sow fear, hatred and conflict."Earlier Sunday, Italy's interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who leads the anti-immigrant League party, spoke at an anti-abortion gathering in Verona that has become a preferred forum for hard-right conservatives with strong links to Russia. Asked about Mr. Salvini's comment that when it came to women, "the real danger is Islam," Pope Francis shook his head and said coyly, "Italian politics, I don't understand."
But the pope spoke more broadly about Europe's tilt toward populism. Catholics and other people of good will who support such leaders, he said, are influenced by a populism that "plants fear." He worried that Europe was not heeding the lessons of the last century. "Fear is the beginning of dictatorship," he said.
He also warned against quickly judging Muslim countries for their relative lack of freedom of religion, arguing that it will evolve as it has in Catholic cultures. Centuries ago, the church supported the death penalty, he noted, something it now finds abhorrent.
But he added, "We, too, have this problem," arguing that the free conscience of Catholics, including doctors, was often infringed on in liberal countries where they were forced to perform procedures against their beliefs, including he said, euthanasia.Francis touched on existential problems within the church, which faces eroding trust because of clerical sexual abuse.
On the flight, Francis said that because an appeal is underway he had rejected the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, France, who has been sentenced to a six-month prison term after being found guilty of covering up sexual abuse.
"I can't accept it because judicially there is a presumption of innocence," Francis said. He continued, "We will see what happens," adding, "perhaps he's not innocent."
The pope also commented explicitly for the first time about his decision last year to unexpectedly postpone votes by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on proposals to address sexual abuse. They included the creation of a commission to review abuse allegations against bishops.Francis said the proposals were "too much" like a lay nonprofit organization and did not take into account the need to confront the "mystery of evil" at work in clerical sex abuse.
"The church is not a congregationalist church," the pope said. "It is a Catholic Church, where the bishop must take on the responsibility, like a pastor. The pope must take on the responsibility."
New York Times, March 31, 2019
April 1, 2019
Voices4America Post Script. Thecritical section of this article about Pope Francis is his warning toTrump. Check It Out: those who close borders "will become prisoners of the walls that they build." #StoptheWall #StopTrump