(Vatican Radio) The Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta on Tuesday urged European Union states to agree on a common policy for the protection of refugees.
Fra’ Matthew Festing, directed his appeal to representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See whom he received at Order of Malta headquarters in Rome.
The Sovereign Order of Malta is active in 120 different nations across the globe with medical emergency programmes, long term health assistance and aid projects for the poor and marginalized.
His Royal Highness, Prince Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, Gran Hospitaller of the Order, spoke to Vatican Radio’s Francesca Sabatinelli about the challenges posed by the current influx of refugees.
Listen to the full interview:
Speaking about the European refugee crisis which began more than a year ago, Prince Dominique said the more than a million immigrants entering Europe in 2015 was "just the start of a movement. The greatest concern of Europe is that there was no general policy."
"I think it is very difficult to welcome, first, so many. Problems of integration, problems of community life, problems of accepting strangers, the economic situation of European countries, higher poverty than a few years ago, unemployment: all this has stressed quite a number of European countries and, of course, their politics."
"One of the issues", he said, "is to try and find a peace solution in the Middle East. The number of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in the region is so huge."
Year of Mercy means opening heart
When asked about the impact of Pope Francis' calling the Year of Mercy, he said, "opening your heart is a very difficult position. We have to know how to welcome those who are different but, at the same time, those who are welcomed must also respect those who are welcoming."
Individual acceptance may be easier, the Gran Hospitaller said, "but with the state it is more complicated. The state political problematic is quite different; it's in masses of people; it's not individuals."
Major issue: link of politics and religion
"Let us not speak about big words like integration", he said, focusing rather on four main issues: social, cultural, political, economic, and religious. "The first three are more easy to deal with. [...] Religion is far more complicated."
"First, you must be in a trend of religious life or in a religious situation. Now all lay states will say 'The guarantee of a lay country guarantees your private [practice] of religion'. The problem is that, for most of these people who are coming - who are Muslim - politics and religion are linked. So if there's not an understanding from each side, I think, we are going to get into an awkward situation."
"I believe there is a higher percentage of people who want to have a normal life, a job, a family, good education, to live a life we all wish to live, but there is this minority which is more difficult to deal with."
(Devin Sean Watkins)