Pope Francis Urges Christians to Overcome Fear of Migrants

Pope Francis poses for a photo with a group of refugees he invited to join him on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Pope Francis has invited a dozen refugees to join him on …
AP/Fabio Frustaci

Pope Francis focused his homily on Friday on urging the faithful to resist “the wickedness and ugliness of our time” by not giving in to fears of migrants and refugees.

In these difficult times, we are tempted to “close ourselves in ourselves, in our fragile human security, in the circle of our loved ones, in our reassuring routine,” the pope said. But this withdrawal into ourselves is a “sign of defeat” that “increases our fear of others — strangers, the marginalized, foreigners — who are also the Lord’s privileged ones.”

“This is particularly evident today, in the face of the arrival of migrants and refugees who knock on our door in search of protection, security, and a better future,” Francis said.

The pope spoke these words at a Mass at the Fraterna Domus center outside Rome “in order to highlight his constant attention to the welcome of migrants,” Vatican News stated.

Francis celebrated the Mass to kick off a three-day meeting titled “Free from Fear,” organized by the Migrantes Foundation, Italian Caritas, and the Jesuit-run Astalli Center for Refugees, to discuss reception structures for migrants.

Throughout his six-year pontificate, Pope Francis has insisted that immigration and the care of migrants are primary concerns for Christians and should not be considered a second-tier issue.

In his 2018 apostolic exhortation bearing the Latin title Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), for instance, the pope said Christians have no right to treat the plight of migrants as a minor moral issue because Jesus commanded his followers to welcome the stranger.

“We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue,” Francis wrote. “Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions.”

“That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children,” he continued.

“Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him?” he asked.

The pontiff defended his continual insistence on the issue of migration by saying it was not just his pet cause, but a central teaching of the Bible.

“This is not a notion invented by some Pope, or a momentary fad. In today’s world too, we are called to follow the path of spiritual wisdom proposed by the prophet Isaiah to show what is pleasing to God,” he said.

Quoting from the Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus, Francis said that oppressing strangers is contrary to God’s will.

Last month, the Vatican’s department for migrants and refugees published the collected teachings of Pope Francis on the issue of immigration, reiterating the pontiff’s appeal for a greater openness to migrants.

The 488-page tome, titled Lights on the Ways of Hope: Pope Francis Teaching on Migrants, Refugees and Human Trafficking, gathers together the pope’s addresses on immigration, underscoring how central this topic has been to his pontificate.

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