Updated May 20, 2024 - World

Pope Francis on U.S. border crisis: Migration "makes a country grow"

 Pope Francis presides over the Pentecost Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Basilicao n May 19, 2024 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Pope Francis presides over the Pentecost Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Vatican, on May 19. Photo: Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images

Pope Francis told CBS in an interview airing Monday night that the solution to record numbers of undocumented immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border was "to open the doors to migration."

Why it matters: President Biden has in response to the migrant crisis this year taken a tougher stance on the border, which Axios' Stef Kight notes has become one of Democrats' most vulnerable issues in the 2024 election cycle.

  • The president told Univision last month that he was exploring whether he had the power to shut down the border without congressional authorization and that he planned to limit crossings.

Driving the news: CBS' Norah O'Donnell noted during their hour-long interview in Vatican City that this had been the discussion in the U.S. as large numbers of mothers and children fleeing violence walked "thousands of miles" to the border with their families for a better life.

  • The pope replied that migration was the solution.
  • "For an immigration policy to be good, it must have four things: for the migrant to be received, assisted, promoted and integrated. This is what is most important, to integrate them into the new life," he said.
  • Representatives for the Biden administration did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Zoom in: The pope also called Texas officials' attempts to shut down a Catholic charity that offers undocumented immigrants humanitarian assistance at the state's border with Mexico "sheer madness."

  • During the CBS special, O'Donnell met with Bishop Mark Seitz at Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, as the Catholic charity fights state efforts to close it over allegations that it shielded undocumented immigrants from law enforcement.
  • "This type of accusation puts fear into the hearts of anyone who generously gives of their time because of the Christian concern for people who are truly the poorest of the poor among us," he said.
  • Francis told O'Donnell that migration "is something that makes a country grow."
  • Representatives for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Zoom out: O'Donnell noted that global warming was among the factors driving the increase in immigration numbers.

  • "Unfortunately, we have gotten to a point of no return. It's sad, but that's what it is," the pontiff said."Climate change at this moment is a road to death."
  • He said he blamed wealthy countries in "great measure" for the situation because of their economic strength and for having energy policies focused on fossil fuels. "They are the countries that can make the most difference," he said.
  • When asked what he thought of climate change deniers, Francis responded: "There are foolish people, and even if you show them the statistics, still the fool will not believe."
  • He said generally this was either "because they don't understand the situation or out of a vested interest," but "climate change is real. The warming of the Earth has already increased by 2 degrees. That is a lot."

Of note: During the interview, O'Donnell said she understood that Francis was against the Catholic Church having women as priests, but that he was studying the notion of women as deacons and asked if he's open to this.

  • "If it is deacons with Holy Orders, no," he replied. "But women have always had ... the function of deaconesses without being deacons. Women are of great service as women, not as ministers ... within the Holy Orders."

Go deeper: Biden takes another step to fast-track asylum process for border crossers

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details from the interview and further context.

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