Italy’s Catholic bishops have continued bashing the populist government’s immigration program, despite its demonstrated success in diminishing migrant deaths at sea.

“Every dead person at sea or in the desert, or because they suffered violence in detention, is an offense against humanity,” Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia told reporters Thursday.

“Migrants must be rescued and saved, not pushed away or blocked in unsafe third countries,” said Bassetti, the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI). “The influx has diminished, but who will take responsibility for those who died at sea? Sending them back to detention centers in Libya can also be a death sentence.”

In point of fact, however, migrant sea deaths have plummeted following Italy’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Last January, the Italian daily La Verità concluded that “the Salvini method works,” referring to declining migrant deaths under the border controls put in place by interior minister Matteo Salvini, who has insisted that open ports fuel human trafficking and encourage migrants to undertake perilous sea crossings.

There was no solution under the former Matteo Renzi government, the newspaper noted, since Mr. Renzi insisted he could do nothing without European Union (EU) approval and then wrung his hands when the EU did nothing to resolve the problem.

“The proof is that after years of useless chatter the departures and arrivals have diminished, indeed almost ceased,” the newspaper declared. “And with falling departures and arrivals, the deaths have also declined. Yes, the statistics say that despite alarms raised by NGOs, as the number of refugees who board a vessel is reduced, deaths have also been reduced. In spite of all the goodniks who said the opposite.”

In its most recent report on migrant deaths and disappearances in the Mediterranean Sea, the United Nations immigration office (UNHCR) found that migrant sea deaths in 2019 were less than half (207) those recorded in 2018 during the same period (433).

Prior to assuming office, Mr. Salvini repeatedly accused NGO vessels of providing an illegal shuttle service for African migrants to Italy and on more than one occasion denounced the NGOs for accepting financing from billionaire George Soros as part of his efforts to promote migration into Europe.

The highest-ranking African prelate in the Catholic Church, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who heads up the Vatican’s liturgical department, recently implored his fellow bishops to review their positions on immigration in the light of the real results of their proposals.

Cardinal Sarah’s thinking on immigration is diametrically opposed to that of the Italian bishops’ conference, and he said in past days that using the Bible to promote migration constitutes “false exegesis,” adding that it is better “to help people flourish in their culture than to encourage them to come to Europe.”

In an interview last week, the cardinal condemned the Church’s push for migration into Europe in the strongest terms, insisting that most immigrants wind up “without work or dignity” and assume the condition of slaves.

“Is that what the Church wants?” he asked, adding that the Church should not support “this new form of slavery that is mass migration.”

“God never intended these fractures,” he said.

Cardinal Sarah has recently published a new book titled Evening Draws Near and the Day is Nearly Over (from Luke 24:29), in which he laments the “collapse of the West,” as well as the “migratory processes” that threaten Europe’s identity.

The cardinal also offered his support for nationalist movements in Europe that wish to recover their sovereignty from Brussels.

“When I visited Poland, a country often criticized, I encouraged the faithful to affirm their identity as they have done for centuries,” the cardinal said. “My message was simple: you are first and foremost Poles and Catholics and only afterward Europeans. You must not sacrifice these first two identities on the altar of a technocratic Europe that recognizes no homeland.”

“The European Union no longer protects the peoples within it,” he said. “It protects the banks.”

“This contemporary desire to globalize the world, ridding it of nations with their distinctive characteristics is sheer madness,” he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

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