Pope Francis defends calling refugee centers ‘concentration camps’

(JTA) — Pope Francis doubled down on his characterization of refugee and migrant centers in Europe as “concentration camps.”

On Saturday, a German reporter asked Francis on his papal plane if he meant to use the term during a ceremony on April 22 at Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew. The reporter for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explained to the pope, “For us Germans this was obviously a very, very serious word, and very close to ‘extermination camp.’ There are people who say that this was a linguistic lapse. What did you intend to say?”

The pope said, “There was no linguistic lapse: There are concentration camps, sorry — refugee camps that are true camps of concentration.” He noted that in such camps, people are “closed in and can’t leave.”

Francis also referred to such camps as a “lager,” which is the German name for a concentration camp.

“But it doesn’t have anything to do with Germany, no,” he said.

Francis made his earlier remarks during a ceremony in commemoration of modern-day Christian martyrs in Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew.

“These refugee camps — so many are concentration camps, crowded with people,” he said in a remark that reportedly was unscripted.

The American Jewish Committee criticized the comment the following day, urging the pope “to reconsider his regrettable choice of words.”

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