Pope Francis' Good Friday Message on Refugees: 'We Are Racists'


There are few holy days in the Christian calendar that are as unifying as Good Friday. The Baptist, the Roman Catholic, the Brethren, the non-denominational Protestant: We all agree that it was the day Jesus Christ was crucified under Pontus Pilate for the sins of all mankind. Three days later, he rose from the dead.

There are a million other quibbles of theology and doctrine between churches and individuals — but, on this one foundational moment, Christians are in accordance.

It should be a moment of unity.

On Good Friday 2022, it was instead a day when Pope Francis called us all “racists” because of refugee policy and compared their flight to the flight of Jesus’ family into Egypt to escape death.

(This isn’t the only time religion has gone woke of late, sadly — and here at The Western Journal, we’ve been chronicling it. We firmly believe a Christian worldview doesn’t require a progressive outlook — and, in fact, is generally opposed to it. If you agree, please help our fight by subscribing.)

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The pope’s statement came in an interview with Italian TV presenter Lorena Bianchetti, who asked the pontiff about “these images that show the flight of Ukrainian people who are forced to leave their land, their homes, their loved ones,” according to a Vatican transcript.

“It is one of the latest exoduses that we are probably, alas, becoming accustomed to,” Bianchetti said. “But in this case, there has been a real concrete response. Does this response, I ask you, do you think it means there are cracks in the walls of indifference, of prejudice toward those who flee from other parts of the world wounded by war, or will refugees continue to be subdivided into the category of being an annoyance?”

One will grant this was quite the softball of a set-up, but darned if the pope didn’t hit it as hard as he could.

“It is true. Refugees are subdivided. There’s first class, second class, skin color, [if] they come from a developed country [or] one that is not developed,” Pope Francis said.

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“We are racists; we are racists. And this is bad. The problem of the refugees is a problem that Jesus suffered too, because he was a migrant and a refugee in Egypt when he was a child, to escape death,” he added, referring to the flight of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus into Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod.

Pope Francis then referenced a painting of the flight into Egypt — only this time, with Joseph being portrayed as a Syrian refugee escaping the civil war there.

“He sent it to me and I made holy cards from it. It shows Joseph with the baby who are fleeing. But Saint Joseph does not have a beard, no,” Pope Francis said. “He is Syrian, from today, with a baby, who is fleeing the war today. An anguished face that these people have, just like Jesus, forced to flee. And Jesus went through all these things, he is still there.”

Pope Francis is the spiritual leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination, granted. But that doesn’t make him an expert on public policy, refugee resettlement or foreign affairs.

And, given that he certainly can’t invoke papal infallibility on the matter, he also isn’t an expert in whether or not Ukrainian refugees are seeing more of a response because, and I quote, “We are racists; we are racists.”

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Refugee resettlement is a complicated matter that goes beyond heart-tugging paintings portraying Joseph as a modern-day Syrian escaping the civil war there.

Vetting is crucial, whether we want to admit it or not. Unvetted refugees — of any race, color or creed — can represent issues writ small or large. Pope Francis’ tacit accusation of racism in the expedient movement of Ukrainian refugees over Syrian refugees ignores, for example, an active terrorist element in Syria that could have easily used unchecked migration to pass agents into Western nations that terrorists were openly targeting.

But, say we take that chance. Even then, it isn’t as if most Ukrainian refugees are traveling tens of thousands of miles to resettle.

According to the BBC, United Nations data shows most of the refugees entered neighboring countries. Of the 4.3 million people who have left Ukraine as of April 6, more than half — 2.5 million — are in Poland.

Romania, Hungary, Moldova, Russia, Slovakia and Belarus are the other nations who have taken in the most.

The reason why is obvious: logistics. In times of war, resettling refugees en masse requires neighboring states to do their part. Otherwise, the feasibility of extracting large numbers of people in an orderly fashion from a collapsing state is a virtual impossibility.

And that’s what we forget about the Syrian refugee crisis we faced not too long ago. The biggest issue is best summed up by this tweet from Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth:

As Euronews noted in a 2015 article, Gulf states close to Syria mostly closed their doors to refugees. This was arguably the biggest factor that turned the Syrian refugee crisis into a disaster — and it had little to do with race or religion.

But then, I’m not here for a discourse on the relative differences between the Ukrainian and Syrian refugee crises or what role race plays in public policy regarding resettlement. These facts alone are enough to demonstrate why the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics shouldn’t be using the occasion of Christ’s crucifixion to condemn those who don’t ascribe to Pope Francis’ policy aspirations for refugee resettlement as “racists” using an argument that ignores the differences between Ukraine and Syria.

The pope isn’t the only one using the tired canard that the only reason Ukrainian refugees have been resettled expediently and without controversy is just because they’re white.

The rest of them, however, aren’t considered the Vicar of Christ by Roman Catholics.

On a day of spiritual unity, the pontiff chose political division. Remember that well the next time Pope Francis starts making political prescriptions.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture