Oct. 9 (UPI) — Pope Francis on Sunday called the treatment of migrants seeking refuge in Europe “criminal” in unscripted remarks in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday.
The pope’s comments came as he canonized two new saints, Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and Salesian brother Artemide Zatti, according to the Vatican’s press agency Vatican News.
“Indeed, the exclusion of migrants is criminal, it makes them die in front of us,” Francis said.
“Today we have the Mediterranean which is the largest cemetery in the world. The exclusion of migrants is sickening, it is sinful, it is criminal.”
In December, at least 16 asylum seekers died when a smuggling boat carrying them in the Aegean Sea capsized, prompting a large-scale Greek military search and rescue operation. Another 140 died just months previously in a shipwreck off the coast of Senegal.
Francis also prayed for an end to the threat of nuclear warfare after comments from President Joe Biden warning of “Armageddon” amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has also led to a refugee crisis in Europe and criticism of the disparity in how Ukrainians are treated compared to other migrant groups.
“We should not forget the danger of nuclear war that menaced the world right at that time,” Francis said, referring to the beginning of the Second Vatican Council 60 years ago.
“Even at that moment, there were conflicts and huge tensions, but the way of peace was chosen.”