French Cardinal Admits Complexity of Immigration

Stresses Need for Respecting People

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By Serena Sartini
PARIS, SEPT. 8, 2010 ( Though acknowledging complex financial and social aspects of immigration, the archbishop of Paris is affirming the priority of respect for people and humane principles.

France has been at the center of an immigration debate since the administration decided to repatriate hundreds of gypsies, sending them mostly to Romania.

Cardinal André Vingt-Trois addressed the issue Saturday during a Mass for participants in the «Young People on a Mission of Peace» pilgrimage, organized by UNITALSI (the National Italian Union for Transporting the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines).

«The question [of immigration] is complex and there are many aspects to be considered,» he said.

The cardinal made a distinction between immigrants who have committed crimes, and those who have not. And he noted how cities ask for laws to permit expelling nomads, «but my concern is where will these people go,» the cardinal said. «Hence, rather than creating a sort of permanent nomadization, or having these people continue to move from one place to another, without ever stopping, the French government has decided on a policy of returning them to their countries of origin.»

He acknowledged that this policy has implied an expense for the government, since the gypsies to be repatriated in the first sessions were offered €300 ($380), «equivalent to a three-month salary in Romania,» the cardinal said. He explained they were also offered €100 ($127) more per child, as well as travel expenses.

«Other elements to consider are health and social care and taxes,» Cardinal Vingt-Trois continued. «In fact the law provides that all residents in the French territory have a right to assistance and [the responsibility] to pay taxes. For all these reasons the French government decided to reduce the number of gypsies.»

Nevertheless, the cardinal clarified, methods of deportation should be carefully considered. Respect for persons must be protected, «guaranteeing the principles of humanity and above all avoiding collective measures. A ‘no’ must be said to handling this globally and collectively, in favor of consideration of each individual. We request this of the French government; we hope it will do this.»

World issues

ZENIT spoke with the cardinal about other issues on the world scene, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The cardinal will participate next month in the synod of bishops on the Middle East.

«We are witnessing a new and important stage in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,» the cardinal observed. «The negotiations are taking place thanks to the decisive role of the United States, but support at the international level must be provided. The two sides are too involved, historically or emotionally, to be able to come to an agreement without the help of the international community.»

In reference to the UNITALSI pilgrimage, Cardinal Vingt-Trois praised the opportunity provided these disabled youth to leave their homes for a spiritual journey that «is a great experience of faith and hope.»
«They must know that they are not marginalized because of their sicknesses,» he said. «These children are messengers and can truly change anything in the world because they inspire hope and peace in the hearts of others.»

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