Pope Francis is more than head of the Catholic Church — he’s also the head of state of the Vatican, which as a government has possibly the most restrictive immigration and citizenship policies of any nation in the world.
The pope, traveling to the U.S. for the first time, has made a special appeal to Americans to welcome immigrants, using his address to a joint meeting of Congress Thursday to invoke the Golden Rule in demanding generosity toward the millions of Central and South Americans seeking to come to the country.
“Thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?” he said. “We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”
Immigrant rights groups had eagerly anticipated the pope’s message, as had illegal immigrants themselves.
Sophie Cruz, a five-year-old U.S. citizen whose parents are illegal immigrants from Mexico, broke through the tight security around the pope during a parade on the National Mall on Wednesday to hand him a letter begging him to pressure Congress and the White House to take steps to grant her parents legal status.
The pontiff didn’t mention illegal immigration during his speech Thursday, but did refer to the large numbers of people coming from Latin America. Advocacy groups cheered his words.
The Vatican, for its part, welcomes millions of visitors a year — but allows only a very select few, who meet strict criteria, to be admitted as residents or citizens.
Only about 450 of its 800 or so residents actually hold citizenship, according to a 2012 study by the Library of Congress. That study said citizens are either church cardinals who reside in the Vatican, the Holy See’s diplomats around the world, and those who have to reside in the city because of their jobs, such as the Swiss Guard.
Spouses and children who live in the city because of their relationship with citizens — including the Swiss Guard and workers such as the gardener — have also been granted citizenship. But that means few of the Vatican’s citizens are women.
A Vatican spokesman did not return an email seeking comment on its policy.
Source: Washington Times