Pope Francis returned to the topic of immigration Tuesday, praising officials in North Macedonia for their warm welcome to migrants.
On the last day of his apostolic visit to the Balkans, the pope told authorities he wanted to recognize the “generous efforts” made by North Macedonia “to welcome and provide assistance to the great number of migrants and refugees coming from different Middle Eastern countries,” a welcome provided both by State authorities as well as various international agencies, including the Red Cross, Caritas, and several NGOs.
“Fleeing from war or from conditions of dire poverty often caused precisely by grave outbreaks of violence, in the years 2015 and 2016, they crossed your borders, headed for the most part towards northern and western Europe,” the pope said.
“With you, they found a secure haven,” he added.
The pontiff’s praise for Macedonian’s efforts to welcome migrants stood in stark contrast to the tone he adopted over the weekend when addressing officials in Bulgaria. Instead of praise, Francis urged officials in that country to offer generous passage to migrants wishing to cross its borders en route to Western Europe.
In his Tuesday address, the pope said that North Macedonia’s example in welcoming migrants said something about their “soul.”
“The ready solidarity offered to those in such great need – people who had left behind so many of their dear ones, to say nothing of their homes, their work and their homeland – does you honor,” he said. “It says something about the soul of this people that, having itself experienced great privations, you recognize in solidarity and in the sharing of goods the route to all authentic development.”
“It is my hope that you will cherish the chain of solidarity that emerged from that emergency, and thus support all volunteer efforts to meet the many different forms of hardship and need,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome