VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Migrants are not looking for handouts in their new countries but are hoping to meet brothers and sisters who can help them integrate and contribute to society, Pope Francis said.
Working with migrants “is not charity work,” giving them a bit of aid and then “leaving them there,” the pope said. “No. It’s taking them and integrating them with education, with job placement, with all these things,” the pope said May 25 during a meeting with representatives of the Global Solidarity Fund.
The fund is a network of Catholic and other foundations, business leaders and business representatives working with together and, especially with Catholic religious orders of women and men, to promote projects aimed at achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Cardinal Silvano Tomasi chairs the fund’s advisory board.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, May 24, the Global Solidarity Fund and Unilever, the London-based multinational, announced a joint project to provide employment to migrants and refugees in Colombia by matching them with businesses, providing training or helping them start their own businesses.
Without such efforts to integrate migrants, they become like a “pebble in your shoe” instead of being active members of the community, the pope said in a completely ad-libbed speech to the group.
Pope Francis also insisted that people recognize that most of them are the children or grandchildren of migrants.
“Once, someone from the United States said to me, ‘But no, we are not migrants, we are already rooted here.'” And the pope said he responded, “‘Don’t lose your memory: you are a people of migrants, Irish migrants and Italian migrants. The Irish brought you whiskey and the Italians brought you the mafia.'”
And, he said, one cannot ignore how much Europe needs migrants as workers and taxpayers. “There is a demographic winter, where there are no children, where the future is increasingly narrow. Let those good people come, but you must integrate them! Integrate them.”
Pope Francis also praised members of the Global Solidarity Fund for their commitment to people on the margins, “going to the peripheries, going to the people who don’t count, the discarded of society — because we are living in a throwaway culture, which discards people — going there is just what Jesus did.”
“Keep going. Get your hands dirty. Take risks,” the pope told them.