Pope Francis Asserts Duty to Welcome All Migrants Who ‘Knock on Our Doors’

TOPSHOT - Pope Francis poses for photographs during a meeting with a group of migrants at
TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty , file

ROME — In preparation for World Refugee Day, Pope Francis declared Wednesday that all of us are “required” to welcome anyone who knocks on our door.

World Refugee Day, an annual United Nations commemoration celebrated on June 20, should be “an occasion to turn an attentive and fraternal gaze to all those who are compelled to flee their homes in search of peace and security,” the pontiff told the crowd gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience.

“We are all required to welcome, promote, accompany, and integrate those who knock on our doors,” the pope contended.

Pope Francis has insisted throughout his 11-year pontificate 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”), the pope argued that Christians have no right to treat the plight of migrants as a minor moral issue because Jesus commanded his followers to welcome strangers.

Pope Francis meets with Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin (known as Pato), a migrant from Cameroon, during an audience with a group of migrants at Casa Santa Marta on November 17, 2023 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

“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 wrote.

“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 a failure to welcome strangers is contrary to God’s will.

Earlier this month, Francis said that modern migrants share many similarities with the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.

The biblical narrative of Exodus, depicting the Israelites on their way to the promised land, “naturally comes to mind” when thinking of immigrants today,” the pontiff wrote in his , Pope Francis asserts in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2024.

“The images of the biblical exodus and of migrants share several similarities,” the pope continued. “Like the people of Israel in the time of Moses, migrants often flee from oppression, abuse, insecurity, discrimination, and lack of opportunities for development.”

“Similar to the Jews in the desert, migrants encounter many obstacles in their path: they are tried by thirst and hunger; they are exhausted by toil and disease; they are tempted by despair,” he added.

In this way, he wrote, it is possible to see in the migrants of our time “a living image of God’s people on their way to the eternal homeland.”

In 2019, 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, gathered together the pope’s addresses on immigration, underscoring how central this topic has been to his pontificate.


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