Pope Francis

Pope Francis on Friday celebrated a special Mass for migrants and refugees in which he denounced the “sterile hypocricy” of people who refuse to help them.

Francis led a service in St Peter’s Basilica attended by over 200 people, including people rescued at sea and representatives of migrant charities.

“The Lord condemns the sterile hypocrisy of those who do not want to get their hands dirty and turn away those who have the right, just as we do, to security and dignified living conditions.

“This hypocrisy builds walls, real or virtual, rather than bridges, while before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy,’’ he said.

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Turning to migrants, Francis urged them to be “witnesses of hope in a world increasingly concerned about the present, with little vision for the future and averse to sharing.”

He also told them to continue on the path of integration while “respecting the culture and the laws of the country that is welcoming you.”

Earlier this week, the Vatican said the special Mass was to mark the fifth anniversary of Francis’ visit to Lampedusa, the Italian migrant-hosting island where he made his first official trip as pope.

The pope is the son of Italian emigrants to Argentina, and has often spoken up for the rights of migrants, urging governments to be more open to them.