BY Ian Dunn | May 9 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

9-POPE-IN-GONDOLA

Pope Benedict XVI calls for solidarity towards immigrants

During visit to Venice, the Holy Father urged Italy to welcome those fleeing to its shores

Pope Benedict XVI has urged Catholics not to fear immigrants, but rather show solidarity towards new arrivals.

The Holy Father was speaking in front of an estimated congregation of 300,000 who had gathered for Sunday Mass during his weekend visit to Venice. Italy has been struggling to cope with thousands of illegal immigrants who have reached its shores in recent months, often on rickety boats, as they flee unrest spreading through northern Africa, including Libya. On Sunday, about 400 were rescued when their boat crashed against rocks at the port of Lampedusa, Italy’s closest port to north Africa.

In his homily at the large public Mass, Pope Benedict spoke of the ‘fear of others, of foreigners’ who ‘reach our land and appear to threaten what we are.’

‘In light of immigration and the new geopolitical circumstances underway,’ the Church should favour solidarity and ‘strengthen its ancient spirit of unity,’ the Pope said. “We have to testify about Christian hope to modern man, who is often beset with vast and worrying problems that throw the very foundations of his being and his actions into crisis.”

The Pope’s visit took place in Veneto region, one of the strongholds of Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League, however the city of Venice is run by a centre-left administration. Later in the Pope’s visit he took a ride in a gondola (above).

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