Rome

Politicians spar over the pope's support of migrants

PdL's Cicchitto says pontiff should not comment on immigration

Politicians spar over the pope's support of migrants

Rome, July 9 - Pope Francis should keep his nose out of immigration policy, a senior official in ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party said Tuesday. Religion and state matters must be separated, said Fabrizio Cicchitto of the centre-right PdL, which is currently part of an uneasy coalition government with the centre-left Democratic Party. He spoke after Francis made a very high profile visit Monday to Italy's southern island of Lampedusa, to honour the many immigrants who risked their lives and often died trying to reach Europe. "It's one thing to preach on religious matters; another, however, is the management by the state of a phenomenon so difficult, complex and also insidious," as immigration, which often involves criminals, said Cicchitto. "A state worthy of the name can not let our guard down". Cicchitto's words were quickly attacked by political opponents, including Marco Furfaro of the Left Ecology Freedom (Sel) party. "Pope Frances, he did what (government) policy was ashamed to do for too many years: embrace and welcome those who come to our door," and hope to enter, said Furfaro. However, Cicchitto's views are shared by many, added his PdL colleague Daniela Santanché who accused opposition politicians of manipulating the pope's actions for their own ends. "(They) manipulate the mission of faith and brotherhood of the Holy Father...Shame on them".

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