Pope worries about Europe's fragmentation

Pope Francis is concerned about the "fragmentation" of Europe, the Vatican says, as Spain was dealing with a secession attempt by the region of Catalonia.

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's second-in-command, spoke at a conference in Rome organised by the association of European Catholic bishops (COMECE).

"The outcome of the British referendum last year, and the tendency to fragmentation sweeping the continent, have led the Holy Father to consider the urgent need to promote a more wide-ranging and focused reflection on Europe," Parolin said.

The cardinal made his speech on Friday, but the Vatican released a transcript only a day later. Francis himself addressed the COMECE event participants on Saturday, but did not mention "fragmentation" again.

In a roughly 30-minute speech, he called on European Union leaders to create employment, especially for young people, welcome migrants, work for peace, and told Christians to "view politics as a lofty service to the common good, not a platform for power".

"Extremist and populist groups are finding fertile ground in many countries; they make protest the heart of their political message, without offering the alternative of a constructive political project," Francis lamented.

The pope defended open-door policies on migration, but acknowledged that they should be commensurate to governments' "ability to provide for the full integration, on the social, economic and political level, of those entering their countries".

"Migration [cannot be] an indiscriminate and unregulated process, but neither can we erect walls of indifference and fear", Francis warned, urging migrants "to learn, respect and assimilate the culture and traditions of the nations that welcome them".

Francis has not recently commented on the Catalonia crisis, although a Spanish Catholic magazine claimed this month that the Pope told the Spanish ambassador to the Vatican he was against Catalan independence.


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