Pope Francis plugged World Refugee Day on Sunday, reiterating his appeal for a streamlining of international migration and a greater appreciation for the positive contribution provided by immigrants.
World Refugee Day is “promoted by the United Nations to draw attention to the plight of our brothers and sisters forced to flee their land because of conflicts and persecution, often with great anxieties and sufferings,” Francis told the thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly Angelus prayer.
As he has done on other occasions, the pontiff threw his weight behind the adoption of a “world pact on refugees,” as well as an international agreement to guarantee “safe, orderly, and regular migration.”
“I hope that the nations involved in these processes reach a consensus to ensure, with responsibility and humanity, the assistance and protection of those who are forced to leave their country,” he said.
Along with political measures, the pope also called for a change of heart at the personal level, urging individuals to be more welcoming toward migrants.
Each one of us “is called to be close to the refugees, to find moments of encounter with them, to appreciate their contribution, so that they can better fit into the communities that receive them,” he said. “The solution to many problems can be found in this encounter and in this mutual respect and support.”
The pope has recently been hammering home his pro-immigration message in an effort to bring about a sea change in debates surrounding migration.
Last Thursday, Francis explicitly appealed for a “change in mindset” regarding immigration, insisting in a message that migrants are not a threat to society but, rather, a source of enrichment.
In his message to the second Holy See-Mexico Conference on International Migration in the Vatican, Francis once again praised the United Nations’ efforts to achieve its two global compacts, one on refugees and the other on “safe, orderly and regular migration.”
The pontiff also sought to counter a negative narrative on mass migration, especially in countries that have been on the receiving end of mass migration, calling for a shift in priorities and mentality.
“This demands a change in mindset,” he said. “We must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society.”
“For this to happen, our basic approach must be to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her,” he said.
The Vatican is in the midst of a two-year campaign aimed at changing people’s minds about migrants, which it inaugurated last September.
“Brothers, we mustn’t be afraid to share the journey! We mustn’t be afraid to share the hope!” Francis said in his announcement of the project called “Share the Journey.”
The campaign is being carried forward by the global Catholic charities network Caritas Internationalis and seeks to promote awareness and action on behalf of migrants and refugees, especially in building good relationships with local communities.
The stated goal of the project is to shed light on both the challenges and effects of migration at every stage of the journey to provoke a “shift in thinking” on the issue.
According to Caritas, the project was created in response to Pope Francis’s frequent summons for a “culture of encounter.”
Our world “faces not a migration crisis, but a crisis of global solidarity,” Caritas says on its website. “Be part of a worldwide campaign to reach out to migrants, change perceptions, open hearts and minds, and strengthen the bonds that unite us all.”
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