Pope Francis has decried a global “epidemic of animosity and violence” where strangers, immigrants and refugees are considered as a threat, with the “status of an enemy.”
“In God’s heart there are no enemies,” Francis said Saturday. “God only has sons and daughters. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.”
The Pope’s words came during the Vatican installation ceremony for 17 new cardinals, celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
“We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts,” the Pope said. “We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy.”
Francis said that these strangers and migrants are considered enemies “because they come from a distant country or have different customs,” or because “of the colour of their skin, their language or their social class,” or because “they think differently or even have a different faith.”
When such a way of thinking penetrates society, the Pope said, animosity soon follows. “Little by little, our differences turn into symptoms of hostility, threats and violence.”
The “virus of polarization and animosity” can infect our way of thinking, feeling and acting, Francis added, even in the heart of the Church.
Speaking of the College of Cardinals, the Pope noted: “We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin colour, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”
While our first instinctive reaction is “to dismiss, discredit or curse” our opponents, Francis said, “Jesus tells us to do exactly the opposite with our enemies, those who hate us, those who curse us or slander us. We are to love them, to do good to them, to bless them and to pray for them.”
The Pope suggested that our motivation for acting this way comes from God’s treatment of us.
“Our Father does not wait for us to be good before he loves the world, he does not wait for us to be a little bit better or more perfect before he loves us; he loves us because he chose to love us, he loves us because he has made us his sons and daughters. He loved us even when we were enemies,” he said.
While ours is “an age of grave global problems and issues,” he said, today each of us “is asked to cherish in your own heart, and in the heart of the Church, this summons to be merciful like the Father.”
On Sunday morning, Pope Francis celebrated the official end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, closing the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s Basilica and inviting all Christians, in their personal lives, “not to close the doors of mercy.”