A major new policy document from the Vatican has challenged world leaders to do more for the protection of refugees and migrants in a move it hopes will galvanise action in the same way as his 2015 letter on climate change.
The document –Responding to Refugees and Migrants: Twenty Action Points is produced by a special Vatican unit set up by Pope Francis. It lays out a roadmap for how states should respond to the issue and has been welcomed by campaigners.
It urges governments to see migration 'not as a new phenomenon, but rather as a natural human response to crisis and a testament to the innate desire of every human being for happiness and a better life'. The 20 points, it says, 'advocate effective and proven measures which together constitute an integral response to the current challenges' and are based on the Church's practical experience of working with migrants and refugees.
The action points lay out specific proposals from the Church for governments to consider, ranging from the creation of humanitarian corridors for people fleeing conflict and providing access to work and education for refugees.
The manifesto also calls for greater support for countries which have borne the lion's share of migrants, many of which suffer from high levels of poverty themselves.
Among the action points are to 'encourage states to ban arbitrary and collection expulsions', to encourage more pathways for safe and legal migration, to provide equal access to education and to improve the local integration of migrants and refugees.
The document comes as governments are preparing two global 'compacts', on refugees and migration, to be agreed at the UN General Assembly in September 2018. Little progress has so far been made and the Pope's intervention is design to kick-start debate.
Graham Gordon, head of policy at Catholic aid agency CAFOD, said: 'This is one of the greatest crises of the century so far. Not for the first time, the Pope is reminding politicians that history will judge whether they rise to the challenge or abdicate their responsibilities.'
He added: 'The Church is at the heart of communities worldwide and is providing practical support to those who have fled from war and poverty. But it's necessary for governments to play their part.
'Displaced people must be given access to services, the right to earn an income through decent and safe work, and help to reunite families separated by war and catastrophe.'
Pope Francis has a track record of challenging politicians on refugees and migrants.
On a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of refugees have landed – his first outside Rome as Pope – he criticised the 'globalisation of indifference''. He said during a visit to Kenya in November 2015 that the world's response to the refugee crisis woudl be a 'test of our humanity'.
In February 2016 he launched a thinly-veiled attack on Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate, with reference to his pledge to ban Muslims from the US, saying a person who builds walls rather than bridges is 'not Christian'.