Pope Francis described the influx of migrants into Europe as an ‘Arab invasion’ before explaining that the new arrivals will enhance Europe for the better.
The pontiff was giving a speech to an audience of French Christians when he reflected on Europe’s history of migration and the positive impact it has had on its culture today.
He described the migrant crisis as ‘a social fact’ before explaining the change will help Europe in the future by making it more multi-cultural, according to Bloomberg.
Pope Francis referred to an ‘Arab invasion’ when he was recalling the moments of mass migration to Europe in history, according the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
‘Today we can talk about an Arab invasion. It is a social fact,’ he told his audience.
The pope went on to explain that the arrival of migrants, predominantly from Syria and Iraq, should be seen from a wider perspective in time and impact.
He insisted Europe will ‘go forward and find itself enhanced by the exchange among cultures.’
Speaking proudly of Europe, the Pope declared that the continent ‘can bring about a certain unity to the world.’
The number of Syrians seeking asylum doubled to 362,800 last year while the growing number of Iraqi nationals has now reached 121,500, the European Commission said today.
The news comes as Greek’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Austria and other Balkan countries of ‘ruining Europe’ by imposing border restrictions.
The restrictions have been designed to try to slow the flow of migrants heading north from Greece.
Austria angered Greece by not inviting it to a meeting of Balkan leaders in Vienna last week to coordinate a slew of border restrictions.
Some 30,000 migrants are now stranded in Greece, waiting for Macedonia to reopen its border so they can continue their northward trek, mostly to Germany.
‘What those countries agreed on and decided goes against all of the rules and against the whole of Europe and we regard it as unfriendly,’ Tsipras told Germany’s mass-selling Bild newspaper in an interview due to be published on Saturday.
Tsipras urged his European Union partners to reject unilateral measures at a summit in Brussels on Monday. The summit will discuss progress on protecting the EU’s external borders and helping Greece to cope with the influx of migrants, who mostly arrive by sea from Turkey.
‘The situation is difficult but not out of control,’ Tsipras said. ‘We have fulfilled more than 100 percent of our commitments, whereas others have not even fulfilled 10 percent and prefer to criticise us.’
Germany, which has taken in more than a million migrants in the past year, strongly backs mandatory migrant quotas for all EU member states, but some countries, especially in former communist eastern Europe, are opposed to them.