The country needs “healing” on the issue of migration, Archbishop Charles Scicluna has said in reaction to the backlash to Pope Francis’s message calling on the Maltese to embrace migrants and asylum seekers with charity.

The pope’s visit to migrants and asylum seekers in Ħal Far has sparked outrage among many Facebook users, who rejected his appeal for charity and overwhelmingly told him to take migrants “back with him to the Vatican”.

Scicluna likened the rejection of the pope’s message on migrants to the rejection of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna speaking to Jessica Arena.

“Good Friday was the moment where Jesus was rejected up to the assassination. We didn’t like the message so we killed the messenger.

“Obviously, we didn’t kill the pope, he is safe in Rome, but I think we need healing here,” he continued.

“There is so much anger, frustration and hatred and that doesn’t help the quality of life we want to live. What are we ensuring by showing such venom? Is it going to make our life better? Is it going to write away the challenges that we face?

“I think the pope is showing us a way how to confront ourselves with the challenges and open ourselves to each other because that brings peace, harmony but also that joy that ensures an extraordinary quality of life.”

On the other hand, the archbishop said he was impressed with the “extraordinary welcome” Malta and Gozo showed Pope Francis but said the country would do well to reflect on his actions and words.

“It would be such a pity if we wasted this extraordinary event, if we had to put it in a deep freeze and not reflect on it and also follow it up,” he said.

“I was speaking to my brother bishops as the visit came to an end and one of the things we were discussing is how now we need to invest, not only money but resources and determination in a follow-up.

“We need to follow up on the important words the pope gave us, both as Church and as Maltese society, and start from there in order to create a new culture of being Church.”

While this might not be an easy path to embark on, the pontiff had laid out a path worth following, he said.

“It’s not going to be magic, we have to work on it but I think we have an authoritative witness to the truth that was spoken to Maltese society with great love, compassion and charity and we are privileged to have had the pope among us to address the situation in such a candid way but with such compassion and good humour.”

Malta making life hard for asylum seekers - Graffitti

Moviment Graffitti activist Andre Callus also felt that the pope’s dialogues applied closely to Malta.

“I think the pope made an important appeal against a situation where human rights are being broken in complicity with the state, a situation which I feel applies to Malta,” Callus said.

“In practice, the government has policies and politics that treat migrants badly and makes their lives harder. Not just a refusal to carry out rescues but by being involved in documented pushbacks to Libya, where we know people are imprisoned, raped and tortured.”

He said Malta actively made life hard for asylum seekers. People who have lived here for many years are denied documents that allow them to live a decent life and forces them to live on precarious work that endangers them, he said.

And on the issue of construction, which was also raised by the pope, he said Francis was likely to have seen for himself the fact that Malta’s beautiful landscape was steadily being eaten away by development.

“It’s pertinent that he mentioned greed because our reality is that developers have morphed into a class of people that dictate policies that lead to savage development,” he continued.

“If we seek to improve our quality of life and if these policies don’t change, this fast and rampant destruction of our environment is going to remain.

“I hope that his words are understood because while some might choose to see them as superficial, the points he brought up are linked to Malta and our politicians have a duty to change them.”

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