Benedict XVI Urges Gestures of Aid for Refugees

On Eve of World Refugee Day

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 19, 2005 ( Benedict XVI appealed to Christians to make concrete gestures of hospitality toward the millions of people who are forced to leave their homeland.

The Pope delivered that message today, on the eve of World Refugee Day, in an address from the window of his study to the thousands of people who filled St. Peter’s Square.

The Holy Father said that no one should feel himself a stranger in the Church.

«The Christian community feels close to those who live this painful condition,» he said. «It exerts itself to support them and manifests in different ways its interest and love, which is translated into concrete gestures of solidarity so that whoever finds himself far from his country, feels the Church as a homeland where no one is a stranger.»

World Refugee Day, whose motto this year is «The Courage to Be a Refugee,» underlines «the strength of spirit needed by those who must leave everything, at times even their families, to escape from grave difficulties and dangers,» said the Holy Father.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees announced on Friday that while the global number of refugees fell by 4% in 2004 to 9.2 million, the lowest total in almost a quarter-century, the number of internally displaced and stateless people remained high.

The Pope explained that «Christians’ loving attention to those in difficulty and their commitment in favor of a more solidaristic society are continually nourished by active and conscious participation in the Eucharist.»

«Whoever is nourished with the faith of Christ at the Eucharistic table assimilates his same style of life, which is the style of attentive service, especially to weaker and less favored people,» he said.

For the Pope, «charity translated into deed, in fact, is a criterion that proves the authenticity of our liturgical celebrations.»

Benedict XVI expressed the hope «that the Year of the Eucharist, which we are living, may help diocesan and parish communities to revive this capacity to go out to meet the numerous poverties of our world.»

Before taking leave of the pilgrims, the Holy Father entrusted to the Virgin Mary «the men, women and children who live the condition of refugees,» reminding the faithful that the Holy Family also «experienced the suffering of exile,» because of «the absurd persecution of Herod.»

At 2.1 million, Afghans remain by far the most numerous refugee group in the world.

The Sudanese account for the largest increase in 2004, resulting in more than 125,000 new refugees, most of whom are fleeing the Darfur region to neighboring Chad.

The top countries of asylum were Iran and Pakistan, with mainly Afghan refugees. Other large asylum countries are Germany, Tanzania and the United States, all of which showed a drop in numbers.

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