ROME — The progressive leader of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has called on Europeans to open their doors to migrants stranded in camps in Libya, Lesbos, and Lampedusa.
“Open the doors. If we do not open the doors to refugees, we also close the doors to Christ. If we want to open the doors to Christ, we must also open the doors to refugees,” said Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich in an interview Monday with SIR, the news agency of the Italian Bishops Conference.
“Italy has given us the example of being able to react in a much more Christian way than other countries,” Cardinal Hollerich said in reference to the massive number of migrants taken in by Italy over the past five years.
Last year, Pope Francis sent the Luxembourg cardinal to the Greek island of Lesbos along with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, to visit the refugee camps of Moria and Kara Tepe.
“In recent years, we have pronounced beautiful speeches on human rights and European values and there were some people who believed what we were saying,” the cardinal said in reference to the trip. “But when they arrived there, to the European border, they realized that what we said were only lies.”
“We talked to the people; we went into their tents. What struck me most was the absolute lack of hope in people,” he said.
Not long after returning from Lesbos, the cardinal had harsh words for his fellow Europeans, saying they should be “ashamed” for not opening their nations to migrants.
Speaking at his cathedral in Luxembourg City last December, Hollerich censured his fellow Europeans for not coming to the aid of those living in refugee camps on Lesbos.
“There are definitely children there that will vanish and be forced into child prostitution,” the cardinal said. “There are children there who will be taught to steal. Others will be raped and assaulted. This is gruesome.”
“This is not happening far from Luxembourg in some place where we cannot help,” he continued. “This is happening in Greece — in Europe and in the European Union. We must be fiercely ashamed that we have not done anything to help.”
In his interview Monday, Hollerich said that Catholic prelates should put greater pressure on their governments to take in more immigrants.
“I would be delighted if the Episcopal Conferences of Europe could speak with their governments and tell the political leaders that the Church expects a welcome,” he said.
“After the gigantic fire in the Moria refugee camp, France and Germany announced their willingness to accept most of the 400 unaccompanied minors that the EU has said it is ready to accept,” he said. “But that is not enough. It is a figure that is almost ridiculous.”
Asked why the rich countries of the North of Europe do next to nothing for migrants, the cardinal responded that “in Europe, Christianity and humanism are lacking.”