Pope paints picture of Sweden that is at odds with Trump's

  • Pope Francis washes the foot of a refugee during the foot-washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center near Rome on March 24, 2016. Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including three Muslim men. (Reuters/Osservatore Romano)
Vatican City

In an interview with a magazine that supports the homeless, Pope Francis suggested wealthy nations are partly to blame for the migrant crisis and urged Europeans and others to stand “in the shoes” of those arriving at their borders.  

“Those who arrive in Europe are escaping war and famine. We are in some way responsible because we exploit their land but we don’t make any kind of investment for which they can benefit,” the pope said.

“They have the right to emigrate and the right to be welcomed and helped.” 

Also in the interview with the Catholic-backed monthly Scarp de Tenis — which means “sneakers” — the pope specifically praised Sweden for welcoming and integrating foreigners.

According to the Swedish Central Bureau of Statistics, around 17 percent of the country’s population of 10 million were born in another country.

Laudato-Si_web.jpgExplore Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. Download NCR's readers' guide to Laudato Si'.

Francis singled out Sweden’s culture minister, Alice Bah Kuhnke, the daughter of a Swedish mother and a Gambian father, as a “beautiful example” of integration.

And he recalled that back in the 1970s and ’80s, a significant portion of the refugees Sweden took in were from Latin American dictatorships.

“During the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires we used to look at Sweden as a positive example,” he said, adding though that recently it hasn’t been so easy.

“Certainly now Sweden is also encountering difficulty; there have been many requests and they are trying to work out what to do because there are not enough positions for everyone.”

The pope’s view of Sweden contrasted with that of President Trump, who recently criticized the Nordic country’s immigration policies, referring to a nonexistent incident there.

Francis referred several times in the interview to the need for people to imagine themselves in someone else’s situation.

“In the shoes of the other, we learn to have a great capacity for understanding, for getting to know difficult situations,” he said.

The pope noted that the Vatican itself houses two Syrian refugee families. Last week, in response to a speech by the pope, the pro-Trump news outlet Breitbart tweeted: “How many refugees are living inside your walls, bruh?

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