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Pope launches drive to aid migrants, refugees

GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term in elections held last Sept. 24, with her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) winning 33 percent of the vote, ahead of the center-left Social Democrats with 21 percent. But the far-right Alternative Fur Deutschland (AFD) also won 13 percent, putting right-wing extremists in the Bundestag for the first time since the Nazi era.

While Merkel retained her leadership of Germany, analysts said the influx of refugees was the single biggest reason for the rise of rightwing extremists who have opposed Merkel’s policy of accepting refugees since 2015.

Meanwhile, in the United States, President Donald Trump continues to push for a policy that is decidedly anti-immigration, highlighted by his ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that had allowed children of deported illegal immigrants to remain in the US.

It is against this background of mounting anti-immigrant sentiment that Pope Francis launched last Sept. 27 a two-year education campaign on the plight of immigrants around the world, led by the Vatican’s Caritas Internationalis, which is headed by our own Archbishop Antonio Luis Cardinal Tagle.

At the launch of the campaign in the Vatican, Cardinal Tagle recalled that his own grandfather was a young immigrant from China. “Who would think that he would produce a cardinal grandson?” Archbishop Tagle said. “Don’t close the doors,” he urged nations where many immigrants from the Middle East and Africa seek entry today. “You might be closing the doors on people who might enrich your society.”

Pope Francis, who is himself is the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, urged people to meet with migrants, listen to their stories, and welcome them. For migrants, he said, are driven by hope, the very same Christian virtue of hope to find a better life. The two-year education campaign on the plight of migrants, called Share the Journey, seeks to counteract mounting anti-immigration sentiment in Europe and the US.

The campaign is the Vatican’s answer to the growing xenophobia and animosity towards refugees around the world today.

Catholics are asked to take part in public action in support of immigrants, posting messages on social media, and participating in activities where they can meet and help them. It is a great source of pride for us in the Philippines that our own Cardinal Tagle is head of Caritas Internationalis which Pope Francis has designated to lead the campaign.