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Pope urges govts to ‘open hearts’ to migrants

Francis stopped short of calling for the U.S. to open its borders during a Mass celebrated just meters from the frontier

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In a moment filled with powerful political symbolism, Pope Francis prayed on Wednesday at Mexico’s dusty northern border for the thousands of migrants who have died trying to reach the United States and appealed for governments to open their hearts, if not their borders, to the “human tragedy that is forced migration.”

“No more death! No more exploitation!” he implored.

It was the most poignant moment of Francis’ five-day trip to Mexico and one of the most powerful images in recent times: History’s first Latin American pope, who has demanded countries welcome people fleeing persecution, war and poverty, praying at the border between Mexico and El Paso, Texas, at a time of soaring anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Francis stopped short of calling for the U.S. to open its borders during a Mass celebrated just yards (meters) from the frontier. But in his homily, beamed live into the Sun Bowl stadium on the El Paso side, Francis called for “open hearts” and recognition that those fleeing gangland executions and extortion in their homelands are victims of the worst forms of exploitation.

“We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant the migration of thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometers through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones,” he said. “They are our brothers and sisters, who are being expelled by poverty and violence, drug trafficking and organized crime.”

Francis also praised the work of activists who “are on the front lines, often risking their own lives” to help those caught up in the migration crisis. “By their very lives, they are prophets of mercy,” he said.

And then, in a pointed message, Francis added a politically charged greeting to the 30,000 people gathered in the Sun Bowl to watch the simulcast on giant TV screens.

“Thanks to the help of technology, we can pray, sing and celebrate together this merciful love which the Lord gives us, and which no frontier can prevent us from sharing,” Francis said. “Thank you, brothers and sisters of El Paso, for making us feel like one family and the same Christian community.”