In prepared statements for the Jan. 1 Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, Pope Francis has once again criticized anti-immigration rhetoric and those who perpetuate it. In the statement, which according to Reuters is generally distributed to world leaders, the pope said that such anti-immigration attitudes stoke violence and racism.
"Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great worry for all those concerned about the safety of every human being," Francis wrote. The title of the statement for this year is "Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace."
In his prepared message, he eviscerated those who politicize an issue that is fundamentally humanitarian. "Many destination countries have seen the spread of rhetoric decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals, and doing so demeans the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God," he said.
The message comes at a time when immigration-related policy issues have taken the fore on political stages both domestic and international. Western countries have seen a slew of isolationist and nationalist politicians take office or gain traction. Similarly, arguably xenophobic policy has been instituted and pushed forward, from Brexit to Donald Trump's promise to build a wall along the Mexican-American border. Meanwhile, Pope Francis extolled the virtues of integrating people from different countries and cultures instead of making it more difficult for them, though he did acknowledge that doing so isn't generally an easy task.
"By practicing the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society," he wrote.
While Francis did not mention the U.S. president by name, this message is not the first time that the Pontiff and President Donald Trump have openly disagreed about the topic of immigration. In February, reports indicated that Pope Francis issued thinly-veiled criticisms of Trump's trademark promise to construct a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
At a weekly talk at the Vatican last winter, Francis reportedly said that Christians were meant to "not raise walls but bridges, to not respond to evil with evil, to overcome evil with good." But as he continued, his allusions to the U.S. President grew increasingly pointed: "A Christian can never say: 'I’ll make you pay for that.' Never! That is not a Christian gesture. An offense is overcome with forgiveness, by living in peace with everyone." The Pontiff even took his argument a step further, calling into question the capacity for someone who pushes anti-immigration sentiments to consider themselves a person of faith. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," he said, according to The Guardian.
Though Francis did not mention Trump by name, he seemed to be referring to Trump's repeated assurances that Mexico would pay for said border wall, if and when one is ever built. Time and time again, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has said that this will not be the case.
At the time, Trump responded quickly and firmly, calling the pope's assessment "disgraceful." "No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith," Trump told reporters. According to The Guardian, he took his response a step further by bringing ISIS into the fray, contending that the pope will have wished for a leader like himself to have been in office if the militant terrorist group were to attack the Vatican. He also accused the Mexican government of souring the pope against him. Trump has not yet responded to the pope's latest remarks.