Pope Francis plans to canonize a bishop known for advocating for migrants as a saint on Sunday, multiple news outlets reported.
Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, who served as a bishop for the city of Piacenza in northern Italy for almost 30 years in the late 1800s, supported migrants’ rights during a period that saw significant migration from Europe to the Americas, according to Religious News Service (RNS).
Scalabrini’s work created the foundation for the Vatican’s approach to migration in the present day, according to RNS. He became known as the “father of migrants” for his advocacy.
The Rev. Graziano Battistella, who headed the push for Scalabrini to be canonized, announced the decision at a press conference on Thursday.
“With this canonization, I think the Holy Father wants to offer the church a model to imitate,” he said. “A model for bishops, a model for the church.”
Scalabrini became a bishop at 36 years old as millions of Italians left the country for Brazil, Argentina and the United States, RNS reported.
Many people of his time viewed migration negatively, but Scalabrini believed it was a “sacred human right” and a realistic fact of life. He saw the mass migration occurring as an opportunity to reduce socioeconomic tensions domestically and increase cultural encounters internationally.
He also warned the proper laws and protections needed to be in place to keep migrants safe from human traffickers and to allow them to hold onto their roots.
Scalabrini was also supportive of women’s role in supporting migrants.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the international community to provide necessary support for migrants during his tenure.