US Jewish org criticizes Pope Francis for reference to concentration camps

AJC CEO: 'Precision of language and facts is absolutely essential when making any historical reference, all the more so when coming from such a prominent and admired world figure.'

April 23, 2017 05:34
1 minute read.

Pope likens refugee holding centres to "concentration camps" (credit: REUTERS)

Pope likens refugee holding centres to "concentration camps" (credit: REUTERS)


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The American Jewish Committee on Saturday criticized Pope Francis for his statements comparing migrant and refugee holding centers to concentration camps.

The pope made the remarks while visiting migrants at a basilica in Rome. He recounted a past visit to Lesbos where he met a Muslim refugee who fled his home country when terrorists killed his Christian wife for refusing to throw her crucifix to the ground.

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"I don't know if he managed to leave that concentration camp, because refugee camps, many of them, are of concentration (type) because of the great number of people left there inside them," the pope said.

AJC CEO David Harris said in response, “The conditions in which migrants are currently living in some European countries may well be difficult, and deserve still greater international attention, but concentration camps they certainly are not.

"The Nazis and their allies erected and used concentration camps for slave labor and the extermination of millions of people during World War II. There is no comparison to the magnitude of that tragedy."

Harris further urged the pope to reconsider his choice of words. “Precision of language and facts is absolutely essential when making any historical reference, all the more so when coming from such a prominent and admired world figure."

Pope Francis also encouraged northern Italy to take on more migrants during his visit to the basilica. He referenced the nation's low-birth rate as one reason to welcome more, saying, "If we also close the door to migrants, this is called suicide."

In April 2016, Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos, where he toured the Moria refugee camp. He decided to bring three Syrian Muslim refugee families -- 12 people in total, including six children -- back to the Vatican with him. “The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees,” an official Vatican statement said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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