Pope Francis: ‘Let Us Open Our Heart to Refugees’

migrants
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty

ROME — Pope Francis called for greater openness to migrants and refugees Sunday, joining the United Nations in celebrating World Day of Refugees.

“Let us open our heart to refugees; let us make their sorrows and their joys our own; let us learn courageous resilience from them!” the pope urged the crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly Angelus message and blessing.

“And in this way, all together, we will make a more human community grow, one big family,” the pontiff added.

Francis has insisted that migrants and refugees represent all those who are excluded, oppressed, and marginalized in today’s society.

“It’s not just about migrants,” he said in his annual message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2019. It’s about “our fears; it’s about “charity”; it’s about “our humanity”; it’s about “seeing that no one is excluded.”

It’s about “putting the last in the first place,” he continued. It’s about “the whole person, about all people”; it’s about “building the city of God and man”; it’s about “all of us, and about the present and future of the human family.”

The rejection of migrants and refugees is linked to “extreme individualism,” Francis asserted, which in turn leads to a “globalization of indifference.”

“The most economically advanced societies are witnessing a growing trend towards extreme individualism which, combined with a utilitarian mentality and reinforced by the media, is producing a ‘globalization of indifference,’” the pope said.

“In this scenario, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion,” he said. “In addition to the hardships that their condition entails, they are often looked down upon and considered the source of all society’s ills.”

“That is why it is not just about migrants,” he said. “When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves that we may keep hidden because it is not well regarded nowadays.”

In his message, the pope reiterated his conviction that resistance to mass migration is ultimately fueled by fear.

“The signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of ‘the other,’ the unknown, the marginalized, the foreigner,” he said. “We see this today in particular, faced with the arrival of migrants and refugees knocking on our door in search of protection, security and a better future.”

These doubts and fears “condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even – without realizing it – racist,” he said. “In this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself.”

“Migrants, especially those who are most vulnerable, help us to read the ‘signs of the times,’” he said in conclusion. “Through them, the Lord is calling us to conversion, to be set free from exclusivity, indifference and the throw-away culture.”

The year 2016 was especially central to the pope’s campaign in favor of migrants and refugees. In that year, he brought 12 Muslim refugees back to Rome with him on the papal plane following a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos as a “gesture of welcome.”

In that same year, Francis celebrated Holy Thursday Mass at a center for asylum seekers rather than in the Vatican, where he washed the feet of twelve young refugees as part of the ceremony.

At the time, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, called the Pope’s gesture “a simple but eloquent sign” of humble service and concern for the plight of the migrants.

The U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has heaped praise on Pope Francis for his efforts to aid immigrants and refugees.

In a 2019 interview, Guterres, praised Francis, highlighting his “strong voice on the climate crisis, on poverty and inequality, on multilateralism, on the protection of refugees and migrants, on disarmament and many other important issues.”

“Through his work, the Pope is contributing to reaching many of our objectives, including the Sustainable Development Goals, combating climate change and promoting a culture of peace,” he said.

Guterres shares the pope’s belief in greater openness to migrants.

The number of people who are forcibly displaced is “shocking and harrowing,” he said. “Conflicts have become more complex, and combined with trends such as climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, and food insecurity, we can unfortunately anticipate that forced displacement and humanitarian needs will continue to increase.”

“I believe we have to fulfil the promises of responsibility-sharing set out in the Global Compact on Refugees,” he said. “We must reestablish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.”

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