POPE Francis would be appalled at the Australian Government’s treatment of asylum seekers, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said in a TV interview on Monday night.
Archbishop Coleridge said in an interview on ABC TV’s Four Corners program that the Holy Father would be “appalled” if he visited Manus Island, where asylum seekers were held under a policy he described as “cruel and dehumanising”.
Australia uses detention centres on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and on the Pacific island nation of Nauru, to process would-be refugees sent there after trying to enter Australia. The refugees have often used unsafe boats after paying people smugglers in Indonesia. Diseases, poor living conditions and rioting have been reported at the detention centres in recent months.
The Archbishop’s comments follow a statement by Australian Catholic bishops last month which condemned the asylum-seeker policies of both sides of politics, describing Australia’s approach as “institutionalised cruelty”.
Archbishop Coleridge said Pope Francis would subscribe to that statement, adding that current policy “shames our country and the need for it to be reconsidered is urgent”.
“What is puzzling and indeed troubling in all of this is that you have politicians who are not themselves cruel people, quite the contrary, but they are presiding over a policy which has to be named cruel,” he said. “And this can only happen if those who are seeking refuge on our shores are dehumanised – and that’s the heart of the problem.”
Pope Francis has frequently condemned poor treatment of migrants and refugees, describing inhumane policies towards them as a symptom of a “globalisation of indifference”.