As the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section announced in March, the theme is “It is not just about migrants”.
In his message, Pope Francis spells out what that means, reflecting on how we can all build the “city of God” if we welcome, protect, promote, and integrate those seeking a better life.
“It is not just about them,” he says, “but about all of us, and about the present and future of the human family.”
“When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves that we may keep hidden because it is not well regarded nowadays.” The Pope adds several examples of what he means.
“It is also about our fears.”
He says sometimes fears are legitimate but that they become an obstacle “when they condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even – without realizing it – racist.” Fear keeps us from encountering the Lord in another person, he says.
Charity and humanity
Pope Francis says the issue of migrants and refugees also has to do with charity and humanity. “Through works of charity, we demonstrate our faith. And the highest form of charity is that shown to those unable to reciprocate and perhaps even to thank us in return.”
Compassion for our shared humanity, he says, leads us to recognize suffering in another person and to take action to heal and save them. “To be compassionate means to make room for that tenderness which today’s society so often asks us to repress.”
Excluding no one
The Holy Father says it is also about seeing that no one is marginalized, observing that today’s world “is increasingly becoming more elitist and cruel towards the excluded.”
“Wars only affect some regions of the world, yet weapons of war are produced and sold in other regions which are then unwilling to take in the refugees produced by these conflicts.”
The price is always paid by the poor and the most vulnerable, he says.
Last put first, the whole person
Pope Francis says it is about putting the last in first place, calling this a Christian’s true motto. “In the logic of the Gospel, the last come first, and we must put ourselves at their service.” It is about the whole person and about all people, he adds.
“In every political activity, in every programme, in every pastoral action we must always put the person at the centre, in his or her many aspects, including the spiritual dimension.”
Building the city of God and man
Finally, the Pope says it is also about building the city of God and man, which he notes is not the same as a technological and consumerist paradise.
The phenomenon of migration, he says, debunks “the myth of a progress that benefits a few while built on the exploitation of many.”
Migrants and refugees are our brothers and sisters, he points out, and are “an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world and a more open and evangelical Christian community.”
You can read the Pope’s message in full here.