Thomas D. Williams
In a joint statement Monday, Pope Francis and the President of the Lutheran World Federation pledged to pursue full Christian unity between the churches, while also promising a common witness, especially in assisting migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers.
In their statement, signed during the Pope’s historic visit to Sweden in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Pope Francis and Lutheran Bishop Mounib Younan “pledge to witness together to God’s merciful grace” while also promising to “stand together in service, upholding human dignity and rights, especially for the poor, working for justice, and rejecting all forms of violence.”
“Today in particular, we raise our voices for an end to the violence and extremism which affect so many countries and communities, and countless sisters and brothers in Christ,” the statement reads.
“We urge Lutherans and Catholics to work together to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum,” it continues.
Sweden has been particularly hard hit by Europe’s migrant crisis, in part because of its sweeping social welfare benefits that make it an attractive destination for those looking to rise out of poverty.
This summer, Breitbart News reported that of the 163,000 migrants who arrived in Sweden in 2015, fewer than 500 have found jobs, meaning that the vast majority depend on taxpayer-funded welfare assistance for their sustenance.
While in many countries asylum-seekers are prohibited from working while their application is being processed, in Sweden there are exceptions. The “at-und” is an exemption granted by Migrationsverket which allows asylums seekers access to the labor market, but for now, few have availed themselves of the opportunity.
Pope Francis has urged European nations to adopt a welcoming stance toward migrants, comparing their situation to that of Jesus and suggesting that hospitality to refugees is “our greatest security against terrorism.”
In a meeting in September with hundreds of alumni of Jesuit schools, Francis told his hearers that with their help, the Pope said, “the Church will be able to respond more fully to the human tragedy of refugees through acts of mercy that promote their integration into the European context and beyond.”
Francis continued, “I encourage you to welcome refugees into your homes and communities, so that their first experience of Europe is not the traumatic experience of sleeping cold on the streets, but one of warm human welcome.”
“Remember that authentic hospitality is a profound gospel value that nurtures love and is our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism,” he said.