Pope Francis Names Virgin Mary ‘Comfort of Migrants’

Migrants and refugees embark on a raft to the Greek island of Chios from Cesme in the Turkish province of Izmir on November 5, 2015. Up to 600,000 migrants and refugees are expected to cross from Turkey to Greece and onwards over the next four months, the UN said Novewmber …
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty

ROME — Pope Francis has added “Comfort of Migrants” to the litany of traditional titles by which Catholics invoke the Virgin Mary.

In a letter dated June 20, Cardinal Robert Sarah, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, declared that the title of “Comfort of Migrants” would be added to the “Litany of Loreto,” along with two other new Marian titles: Mother of Mercy and Mother of Hope.

“The Church which walks along the pathways of history as a pilgrim towards the heavenly Jerusalem and enjoys inseparable communion with Christ her Spouse and Saviour, entrusts herself to her who believed in the word of the Lord,” Cardinal Sarah wrote.

“We know from the Gospel that the disciples of Jesus had in fact learned from the very beginning to praise her as ‘blessed amongst women’ and to count on her maternal intercession,” the cardinal said.

In his letter, Sarah notes that over the centuries, Christian piety has reserved numerous titles for the Virgin Mary, such as Refuge of Sinners, Comforter of the Afflicted, and Help of Christians.

“Even in this present moment, which is marked by feelings of uncertainty and trepidation, devout recourse to her, which is full of affection and trust, is deeply felt by the People of God,” he states.

The cardinal concludes his brief missive by announcing that Pope Francis “wishes to provide that in the formulary of the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, called ‘The Litany of Loreto,’ the invocations ‘Mater misericordiæ,’ ‘Mater spei’ and ‘Solacium migrantium’ should be inserted.”

Along with care for the environment, Francis has made attention to the plight of migrants a hallmark of his seven years as pope, often calling on political leaders to show greater openness to immigration.

Last Christmas, the pope made migrants the centerpiece of his Urbi et Orbi blessing, addressing the issue of immigration a remarkable three times in an 865-word message.

“May the newborn Lord bring light to the people of Africa, where persistent social and political situations often force individuals to migrate, depriving them of a home and family,” the pontiff said to the thousands of pilgrims and tourists gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.

The pope declared that modern migration is the product of injustice and that migrants often find their efforts impeded by “walls of indifference.”

May the Son of God protect and sustain all those who, due to injustices “are forced to emigrate in the hope of a secure life,” he said.

“It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries,” he said, adding:

It is injustice that forces them to ensure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps. It is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference.

Ten days ago, Francis called for the establishment of “pathways” for the hundreds of thousands of African migrants wishing to travel to Europe.

“I am following the dramatic situation in Libya with great apprehension and sorrow,” the pope said at the end of his Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square.

I pray for “the thousands of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Libya,” the pontiff continued. “The health situation has aggravated the already precarious conditions in which they find themselves, making them more vulnerable to forms of exploitation and violence. There is cruelty.”

“I call on the international community to please take their plight to heart, identifying pathways and providing means to provide them with the protection they need, a dignified condition and a hopeful future,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, we are all responsible for this. No one can consider him or herself dispensed from this.”

In late May, the United Nations released a report declaring that hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees are currently residing in Libya while awaiting an opportunity to travel across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

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