Champion of migrants rights resigns from Vatican post

1st September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Vatican official critical of Italy's migration policies and of France's recent crackdown on Roma gypsies has resigned for age reasons and the pope has accepted his resignation, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Agostino Marchetto, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Vatican ministry dealing with migration issues, recently turned 70 and had planned his resignation "a while ago," Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini told reporters.

On August 20, as France was pushing ahead with its controversial repatriation of hundreds of Roma, Marchetto said the expulsions were against European norms.

A few days later Pope Benedict XVI entered the debate, asking French pilgrims visiting him at his summer residence to welcome people of all origins.

In 2009, Marchetto had criticised the Italian government for its accord with the Libyan government that allows the Italian navy to intercept illegal migrants at sea and return them to Libya, saying it "did not take into account the rights of forced migrants."

Marchetto's criticism of Italy's migration policies earned him a rebuff from the junior interior minister and praise from the United Nation's refugee agency.

But when he attacked in 2009 an Italian law making illegal immigration a crime, the Vatican distanced itself from his remarks, saying the Vatican had not expressed a position on the issue.

Marchetto told religious news agency that he would now spend time researching the Second Vatican Council.

© 2010 AFP

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