Pope Francis has devoted his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the millions of men, women and children who are internally displaced by conflict, poverty and climate change.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic that exacerbates their plight, he also turned his attention to all those who are experiencing situations of precariousness, abandonment, marginalization and rejection as a result of the crisis.
The 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on 27 September 2020 on the theme “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee”.
The Pope pointed out that “Situations of conflict and humanitarian emergencies, aggravated by climate change, are increasing the numbers of displaced persons and affecting people already living in a state of dire poverty.” He added that the drama of internally displaced people is one of the challenges of our contemporary world.
According to the 2020 Global Report on Internal Displacement, conflict and disasters triggered 33.4 million new internal displacements across 145 countries and territories in 2019.
The Pope noted that conflict, violence and disasters continue to uproot millions of people from their homes every year. He said the severity of the global crisis caused by the pandemic has “relegated to the bottom of national political agendas those urgent international efforts essential to saving lives.”
Reminding Christians that we are called to see the face of Christ in the faces of those who suffer, he urged them to respond to this pastoral challenge with the four verbs indicated in his Message for this Day in 2018: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.
This year he added to these another six pairs of verbs that, he said, “deal with very practical actions and are linked together in a relationship of cause and effect”:
– Know in order to understand: Knowledge, the Pope said, is a necessary step towards understanding others. “When we talk about migrants and displaced persons, all too often we stop at statistics. But it is not about statistics, it is about real people!” Only by encountering them and knowing their stories, he explained, will we be able “to understand the precariousness that we have come to experience as a result of this pandemic is a constant in the lives of displaced people.”
– Be close in order to serve: Fears and prejudices, the Pope said, keep us distant from others and prevent us serving them with love. Drawing close to others often means being willing to take risks, “as so many doctors and nurses have taught us in recent months.”
– To be reconciled, we need to listen: In today’s world, the Pope said, “messages multiply but the practice of listening is being lost. Yet it is only through humble and attentive listening that we can truly be reconciled.” This year, he continued, a dramatic and troubling silence has reigned for weeks in our streets, but it has “given us the opportunity to listen to the plea of the vulnerable, the displaced and our seriously ill planet.”
– To grow, it is necessary to share: God, the Pope said, did not want the resources of our planet to benefit only a few. “The pandemic has reminded us how we are all in the same boat. Realizing that we have the same concerns and fears has shown us once more that no one can be saved alone.”
– Be involved in order to promote: If we really want to promote those whom we assist, he explained, we must involve them and make them agents in their own redemption. “The pandemic has reminded us of how essential co-responsibility is, and that only with the contribution of everyone – even of those groups so often underestimated – can we face this crisis” and find “the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity.”
– Cooperate in order to build: Building the Kingdom of God, he said, is a duty common to all Christians, so we need to learn to cooperate, without yielding to the temptation to jealousy, discord and division. In the present context, the Pope said, it should be reiterated: “This is not a time for self-centredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all: to preserve our common home and make it conform more and more to God’s original plan, we must commit ourselves to ensure international cooperation, global solidarity and local commitment, leaving no one excluded.”
Prayer modeled after St. Joseph
Pope Francis concluded his message with a prayer that reflects the theme of the Message. He said it draws inspiration from the example of Saint Joseph at the time he was forced to flee to Egypt to save the child Jesus.
Father, you entrusted to Saint Joseph what you held most precious: the child Jesus and his Mother, in order to protect them from the dangers and threats of the wicked.
Grant that we may experience his protection and help. May he, who shared in the sufferings of those who flee from the hatred of the powerful, console and protect all our brothers and sisters driven by war, poverty and necessity to leave their homes and their lands to set out as refugees for safer places.
Help them, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, to find the strength to persevere, give them comfort in sorrows and courage amid their trials.
Grant to those who welcome them some of the tender love of this just and wise father, who loved Jesus as a true son and sustained Mary at every step of the way.
May he, who earned his bread by the work of his hands, watch over those who have seen everything in life taken away and obtain for them the dignity of a job and the serenity of a home.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, whom Saint Joseph saved by fleeing to Egypt, and trusting in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom he loved as a faithful husband in accordance with your will. Amen.