papa franjo.jpg
Photograph: EPA/GIUSEPPE LAMI

European nations can and must jointly take the challenge of protecting their own citizens without withdrawing shelter from migrants, Pope Francis said Monday.

The "present wave of migration seems to be undermining" Europe's "humanistic spirit," but it should not allow a "loss of values and principles of humanity ... however much they may prove, in some moments of history, a burden difficult to bear," he said. 

"Europe ... has the means to find the right balance between its twofold moral responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants," the pontiff told diplomats accredited at the Holy See.

Francis cautioned that the countries facing the brunt of the migration emergency "not be left alone" and urged a "frank and respectful dialogue among the countries - of origin, transit  and reception - toward a sustainable solution."

"There is no place for autonomous solutions pursued by individual states," he said. "Migrations ... will play a pivotal role in the future and our response can only be the fruit of a common effort respectful of human dignity and the rights of persons."

Francis repeatedly addressed the fate of migrants who began arriving at a massively increased rate in 2015.

He visited the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, one of their gateways to Europe from North Africa, shortly after taking office, met refugees several times and has called on the clergy to shelter migrants.

The surge of people arriving through the Balkan migration route - from Turkey, to Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia - continued despite the stormy, dangerous weather that has claimed dozens of lives in the Aegean in recent days.

Two Greek ferries shuttled more than 1,600 migrants from the Aegean islands to Athens on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

At the other end, in Slovenia, the authorities registered 25,000 refugees who transited the country en route to Austria and further to Western Europe in the first 10 days of the year.

Latest news

Brexit fears plague locals and expats alike in southern Spain

As Britain's departure from the EU approaches, the anxiety is most palpable on Spain's Costa del Sol, where so many Britons live. What will happen to the economy if the expats one day have to leave?

Reports: 12 injured as car runs into crowd at New Orleans parade

Twelve people were injured Saturday in the US city of New Orleans when a car struck a crowd watching a parade, local media reported.

"Moonlight" big winner at independent film awards

The coming-of-age drama "Moonlight" won six prizes including best feature at the 32nd Film Independent Spirit Awards Saturday, claiming the Hollywood spotlight on the eve of the Oscars.

Trump: I won't attend White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

US President Donald Trump said Saturday that he does not plan to attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year.

US Democratic Party chooses Tom Perez to be next party chief

The US Democratic Party elected former labour secretary Tom Perez as its next party chief at a meeting in Atlanta on Saturday.

73-year-old man dies after car ramming in Germany

A 73-year-old male pedestrian died from his injuries after being run over when a car rammed into people in the south-western town of Heidelberg, police said Saturday.

Syrian government vows retribution for Homs attacks that killed 42

The Syrian government vowed retribution for synchronized attacks on Saturday in Homs City that left 42 security personnel dead and reportedly involved up to six suicide bombers.

Between 250,000 and 300,000 Croatians suffer from rare diseases

Rare Disease Day, observed on February 28, was marked in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg Square on Saturday.

German police shoot man who rammed car into pedestrians in Heidelberg

Police in Germany shot a man who rammed a car into pedestrians in the south-western town of Heidelberg on Saturday.

Egypt's al-Sissi orders cabinet to help Christians fleeing Sinai

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi ordered the government on Saturday to take all necessary measures to help Christians who escaped northern Sinai after the Islamic State militia killed at least six of them over the past month.

SDP MP calls on citizens to raise their voice against restriction of women's rights

Josko Klisovic, a Social Democrat member of the Croatian parliament, on Saturday called on all Croatians to raise their voice against a policy turnaround on women's rights after Croatia took a conservative position in a discussion on human rights in the Council of the European Union.

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's aide of 22 years

An Egyptian court on Saturday acquitted one of ousted president Hosny Mubarak's closest aides, ruling he was not guilty of corruption and illicit profits.