Pope Francis: Jesus Christ Himself Asks Us to Welcome Migrants ‘With Arms Wide Open’

Pope Francis has once again launched an appeal for greater acceptance of migrants and refugees, insisting that it is Jesus Christ who urges us to welcome them.

Greeting representatives of Caritas—an international Catholic outreach organization—after his weekly General Audience in a sunny Saint Peter’s Square, the Pope officially inaugurated the group’s “Share the Journey” campaign, established to offer solidarity with migrants everywhere.

“I welcome the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who, together with the workers from Caritas Italy and other Catholic organizations, are the sign of a Church that tries to be open, inclusive and welcoming,” Francis said.

After thanking members of the group for their “untiring service,” the pontiff asked the thousands gathered in the Square to offer them a “big round of applause.”

“With your daily life,” he said, “you remind us that Christ himself asks us to welcome our brother and sister migrants and refugees with arms wide open.”

“That’s right, with arms wide open,” Francis continued, “ready for a sincere, affectionate and encompassing embrace, kind of like this Colonnade of Saint Peter’s Square, which represents the church as mother embracing everyone, sharing in the common journey.” The Pope was referring to the rows of columns flanking Saint Peter’s Square like two open arms, designed by Italian artist and architect Gianlorenzo Bernini.

The Pope ended his appeal by greeting representatives of a number of other organizations engaged in providing assistance to migrants and refugees.

Along with Caritas, these groups have pledged their support in “gathering signatures petitioning for a new immigration law, more relevant for the current circumstances,” Francis said.

Last week, the Pope urged European nations to welcome more migrants throughout the continent, telling his hearers to beware of the “intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia” that have sprung up around Europe.

Speaking with directors of the Church’s pastoral work with migrants, the Pope recognized the malaise caused by the “massive migrant flows” in Europe that have “thrown into crisis migratory policies held up to now.”

At the same time, he rejected national immigration policies designed to protect the cultural and religious identities of the peoples of Europe.

“I won’t hide my concern in the face of the signs of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia that have arisen in different regions of Europe,” the pontiff said, which are “often fueled by reticence and fear of the other, the one who is different, the foreigner.”

“I am worried still more by the sad awareness that our Catholic communities in Europe are not exempt from these reactions of defensiveness and rejection, justified by an unspecified ‘moral duty’ to conserve one’s original cultural and religious identity,” he said.

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