Pope Francis arrives at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, on Saturday to celebrate Mass. Earlier in the day the pontiff scolded European lawmakers for not welcoming migrants. Photo by Sebastien Nogier/EPA-EFE/Pool
Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Saturday condemned "alarmist propaganda" surrounding the influx of North African and Middle Eastern migrants into European countries while wrapping up a two-day French tour.
During a speech at a religious conference in the port city of Marseille, the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church called on policymakers to embrace asylum seekers instead of "fueling people's fears."
Francis scolded world leaders during a 35-minute address by urging lawmakers to reject the "fanaticism of indifference" and work to find better solutions, saying it was a moral obligation to welcome migrants.
"Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they are seeking welcome, they are seeking life," Francis said during the conclusion of a summit on migration attended by Catholic faithful from more than 30 countries.
"As for the emergency, the phenomenon of migration is not so much a short-term urgency, always good for fueling alarmist propaganda, but a reality of our times, a process that involves three continents around the Mediterranean and that must be governed with wise foresight," he said.
The the 86-year-old pontiff acknowledged the enormity of the crisis but said the rhetoric was putting human rights at stake. He warned there would be greater consequences unless world leaders changed their approach.
"Merely crying 'enough!' is to close our eyes; attempting now to 'save ourselves' will turn into tragedy tomorrow," he warned. "Future generations will thank us if we were able to create the conditions for a necessary integration."
The pope's trip to Marseille came after France announced it would not grant sanctuary to the flood of migrants who arrived in Italy from North Africa earlier this month.
Ahead of the visit, far-right politicians slammed the pontiff for weighing in on the European migration, but in his speech, Francis defended his position, saying the church traditionally stood with migrants.
"This situation is not a novelty of recent years, and this pope who came from the other side of the world is not the first to warn of it with urgency and concern," Francis said to cheers. "The church has been speaking about it in heartfelt tones for more than 50 years."