ROME — Pope Francis celebrated the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in the Vatican Sunday, insisting on the “moral duty” to welcome the stranger with the compassion exhibited by God himself.
The Lord “upholds the stranger as well as the widow and the orphan among his people,” the pope said in his homily at morning Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “The Lord has a particular concern for foreigners, widows and orphans, for they are without rights, excluded and marginalized. This is why God tells the Israelites to give them special care.”
Citing the biblical book of Exodus, Francis said that the God of Israel is the one who “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”
“This loving care for the less privileged is presented as a characteristic trait of the God of Israel and is likewise required, as a moral duty, of all those who would belong to his people,” he said.
Yet this message “is not only about foreigners; it is about all those in existential peripheries who, together with migrants and refugees, are victims of the throwaway culture,” the pope clarified.
Francis went on to propose that the contemporary society is not becoming kinder toward outcasts but more severe.
“Today’s world is increasingly becoming more elitist and cruel towards the excluded,” he said. “This is a painful truth; our world is daily more and more elitist, more cruel towards the excluded.”
“Overly concerned with preserving our own well-being, we too risk being blind to our brothers and sisters in difficulty,” he said.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis expressed his conviction that immigration is not only a reality that must be tolerated, but an effective means of mixing races and cultures that should be positively encouraged.
Xenophobia is “part of a populist mentality that leaves no sovereignty to the people. Xenophobia destroys the unity of a people, even that of the people of God,” Francis told a gathering of Jesuits during his visit to Mozambique on September 5.
“There are those who want to stop this very important process of mingling cultures, which gives life to people. Mixing makes you grow, it gives you new life. It develops racial mixing, change and gives originality,” he said.
“The mixing of identities is what we have experienced, for example, in Latin America. There we have everything: Spanish and Indian, the missionary and the conqueror, the Spanish lineage, people’s mixed heritage,” he added.
“Building walls means condemning yourself to death,” he said. “We can’t live asphyxiated by a culture as clean and pure as an operating theater, aseptic and not microbial.”