This Sunday 14 January marks the 104th annual World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore and Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace, welcomed Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day saying, ‘Pope Francis has placed migrants and refugees before the conscience of the world.’
The theme of Pope Francis’ Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees is ‘Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees’.
Welcoming the message, Bishop McAreavey said, ‘Pope Francis is a vocal advocate for migrants and refugees and has highlighted their humanity and their vulnerability. Pope Francis has placed migrants and refugees before the conscience of the world.
‘In his message for 2018 – as in his World Day of Peace message – the Holy Father reminds us that “every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43)”.’
‘Pope Francis identifies four verbs/action points – welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating – that are challenges to the Church and to civil society in relation to this burning issue. I encourage everyone to read this important message and to reflect on the guidance offered by Pope Francis in support of migrants and refugees.’
In his message, Pope Francis said, ‘Throughout the first years of my pontificate, I have repeatedly expressed my particular concern for the lamentable situation of many migrants and refugees fleeing from war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty. This situation is undoubtedly a “sign of the times” which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit, ever since my visit to Lampedusa on 8 July 2013. When I instituted the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, I wanted a particular section – under my personal direction for the time being – to express the Church’s concern for migrants, displaced people, refugees and victims of human trafficking.
‘Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43). The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.
‘In this regard, I wish to reaffirm that our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.’
Pope Francis concluded, ‘Today, 15 August, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. The Holy Mother of God herself experienced the hardship of exile (Matthew 2:13-15), lovingly accompanied her Son’s journey to Calvary, and now shares eternally his glory. To her maternal intercession we entrust the hopes of all the world’s migrants and refugees and the aspirations of the communities which welcome them, so that, responding to the Lord’s supreme commandment, we may all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.’
See www.catholicbishops.ie for the text of Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees and for parish resources prepared by the Bishops’ Council for Immigrants.