What Pope Francis Wants Everyone To Remember When They Talk About Refugees

The Pope reminded the world of a fundamental truth concerning refugees.

Pope Francis delivered his annual "State of the World" address on January 8 from Vatican City, and in it he discussed refugees, a nuclear weapons ban, and more.

In the speech, which was given in front of dozens of diplomats from all over the world, Pope Francis didn't hold back while covering a wide array of complicated and often controversial topics. Though the pontiff has defended the world's migrants and refugees numerous times in his position as a religious leader, the approach he took in the "State of the World" was a bit different.

According to Reuters, the 81-year-old  warned against "stirring up primal fears" of newcomers. Though he didn't mention any country or world leader by name, the Pope was clearly making reference to the fact that migration has become a hot button issue, with countries such as the United States, Italy, and Germany looking to prevent or significantly decrease the flow of those from other nations into their respective countries.

He also made clear that rhetoric, political or otherwise, shouldn't cloud the world's recognition of what refugees actually are: people. 

"There is a need, then, to abandon the familiar rhetoric and start from the essential consideration that we are dealing, above all, with persons," the Pope added, likely in attempt to get various world leaders to remember that migrants and refugees are people, first and foremost.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 66 million people were displaced worldwide in 2016, and that year the number of refugees reached an all-time high of 22.5 million people, over half of whom are under the age of 18. 

In 2016, Pope Francis kissed and washed the feet of Muslim refugees, proving that not even the most powerful religious figure in the world is above serving others, and last year he appeared in a video with dozens of other religious leaders in an effort to unify people of all faiths across the globe.

In his "State of The World," the Pope also called for a ban on nuclear weapons as tensions rise on the Korean peninsula. "Nuclear weapons must be banned," he said, reportedly quoting a document issued by Pope John XXIII at the height of the Cold War. He added there is "no denying that the conflagration could be started by some chance and unforeseen circumstance."

The Pope's remarks come just one day before North and South Korea are scheduled to hold talks to address North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics, which begin on February 9.

Cover image via  giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com.

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