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Pope says fear should not deter helping refugees, criticizes family separation

'It's not easy, but populism is not the answer,' the Pope said in an interview with Reuters.

Pope Francis is urging people not to "let fear get in the way of welcoming our neighbor in need."

The Pope said in a Twitter message tagged with the hashtag "WithRefugees" said "we encounter Jesus in those who are poor, rejected and refugees."

Wednesday's message on World Refugee Day comes as the Trump administration has faced criticism for separating children of parents seeking asylum in the United States at the border, and as the new Italian government has taken a hard-line stand on migrants, refusing to allow an NGO-run ship with some 630 migrants rescued at sea to make landfall in Italy. They have since been welcomed by Spain.

Pope Francis also criticized the Trump administration's immigration policy, He told Reuters in a wide-ranging interview Sunday that he agrees with recent statements by U.S. Catholic bishops who called the separation of children from their parents "contrary to our Catholic values." He said "it's not easy, but populism is not the solution."

Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has quoted the Bible in defending the policy, which calls for every person who crosses the border illegally to be prosecuted and detained. The result has been more than 2,000 children detained without a guardian and no clear plan on how the families will be reunited.