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The Pope, who called the exclusion of immigrants “criminal”, upon hitting Meloni

The Pope, who called the exclusion of immigrants "criminal", upon hitting Meloni

Oct 9 (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday fervently defended migrants, calling their exclusion “blatant, disgusting and sinful”, putting him on a collision course with Italy’s incoming right-wing government.

Francis made his comments during the canonization of a 19th-century bishop known as the “Father of Emigrants” and a 20th-century man who ministered to patients in Argentina.

Francis, who made support for immigrants a major theme of his pontificate, presided over the ceremony in front of 50,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.

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“Exclusion of immigrants is scandalous. In fact, exclusion of immigrants is a criminal act. It makes them die in front of us,” he said.

“So today the Mediterranean is the largest cemetery in the world,” he said, referring to the thousands who drowned trying to reach Europe.

“Excluding immigrants is disgusting, it is a sin. It is criminal not to open the doors to the needy,” he said.

Giorgia Meloni is expected to become prime minister later this month at the head of a right-wing coalition that has vowed to crack down on immigration and tighten restrictions at Italy’s borders.

It has promised to speed up repatriations and tighten asylum rules. Meloni also called for a naval blockade of North Africa to prevent migrants from sailing and the renewal of restrictions on charity rescue ships. Read more

Francis, who did not mention Italy, said some of the returned migrants are being placed in “concentration camps where they are exploited and treated as slaves”. In the past he said that this happened in Libya.

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The Pope departed from a text about immigrants on this point in his prepared comments when he mentioned the most famous of the new saints – Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrine, who lived between 1839 and 1905.

Scalabrini established two religious orders—one for priests and one for nuns—to help Italian immigrants in the United States and South America.

Another new saint is Artemides Zatti, who lived between 1880 and 1951. His family fled poverty in Italy and settled in Argentina.

He was a secular member of the Salesian religious sect, and worked as a nurse providing health care to the poor on his bicycle.

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(Reporting by Philip Polila) Editing by Raisa Kasulowski

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.