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Sen. Tim Kaine talks refugee crisis with Pope Francis

3/4/2017, 11:43 a.m.
While most congressional lawmakers headed home during last week’s break, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Richmond responded to a higher ...
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine talks with Pope Francis during a general audience Feb. 21 at the Vatican. Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Free Press Staff Report

While most congressional lawmakers headed home during last week’s break, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Richmond responded to a higher calling.

Sen. Kaine, a devout Roman Catholic who has attended Mass for decades at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, a largely African-American parish in Richmond’s Highland Park, headed to Italy, where he spoke with Pope Francis in Vatican City.

During the general audience, Sen. Kaine discussed with the pontiff the global refugee crisis and the plight of immigrants.

Both have become major issues in the United States in the face of President Trump’s recent executive order shutting down refugee admissions and banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country. (The order is on hold after federal courts in several states, including Virginia, halted its enforcement.)

Sen. Kaine, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president in November on the ticket with President Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has spoken against the Muslim ban as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

He and Virginia’s senior senator, Mark Warner, also have joined several other lawmakers in introducing a bill to rescind President Trump’s executive order, which the White House has said is being revamped to meet court objections.

“As the pope states so clearly,” Sen. Kaine said after the audience, “it is a ‘moral imperative’ to protect and defend the ‘inalienable rights’ of refugees and respect their dignity, especially by adopting just laws that protect those fleeing dangerous or inhumane situations.”

He called the relationship between the United States and the Holy See “tremendously important,” adding, “the work we are doing together to address issues such as refugees, human trafficking, conflict resolution and reconciliation helps us advance peace in the world as we try to end suffering and cooperate on issues of common good.”

While at the Vatican, Sen. Kaine also met with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, foreign minister of the Holy See, and participated in a discussion on Latin American issues with Vatican officials.

He also met with officials from the Jesuit Refugee Service to discuss its work with refugees and people seeking asylum.

Sen. Kaine, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., attended a Jesuit high school and interrupted his studies at Harvard Law School to spend a year working at a Jesuit mission school in Honduras.