Pope Francis will celebrate a special “Mass for Migrants” this Friday at the main altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his visit to migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Vatican announced Wednesday.
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, released a statement on the Vatican’s website alerting people to the Mass in support of migrants, which “will be a moment of prayer for the deceased, for survivors and for those who assist them.”
Mr. Burke said that some 200 people are expected to be present at the event, “including refugees and people who take care of them.”
In recent months, the Pope has launched a full-court press on behalf of migrants in the hopes of bringing about a “change in mindset” regarding immigration, insisting in a recent message that migrants do not pose a threat to society but are, rather, an enrichment.
“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 added.
The pope’s support for free-flowing immigration has placed him on a collision course with populist leaders who are moving to stem the tide of international mass migration.
Last year, Francis said that a growing hostility toward migrants is stoked by “populist rhetoric,” adding that a failure to welcome migrants is rooted in selfishness.
A true change of heart is needed, the Pope said, because the rejection of migrants is “rooted ultimately in self-centeredness and amplified by populist rhetoric.”
The pontiff adopted a similar position in a recent interview with Reuters, in which he said that populism will not resolve Europe’s immigration crisis, insisting rather that Europe has been the cause of many of Africa’s problems and has a responsibility to welcome those who come looking for a better life.
Asked what he thought the solution is to the immigration crisis that is rocking Europe, the pope answered: “Populism is not the solution,” adding that Europe would disappear without migrants because no one is having children.
“Let’s look at history,” he said. “Europe was made by immigrants. Let’s look at the current situation. In Europe there is a great demographic winter. It will become empty.”
The pope praised Italy and Greece as well as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan for their “courage and generosity” in welcoming migrants, suggesting that this is the correct response.
The Vatican has released the prayers for the pope’s Mass for Migrants to be celebrated this Friday, which include the following opening prayer:
O God, father of all men, for you no one is a stranger, no one is excluded from your fatherhood; look with love on refugees, those in exile, victims of segregation, and abandoned and helpless children, so that the warmth of a home and a homeland may to be given to all, and that we may be given a sensitive and generous heart towards the poor and oppressed. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
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