On World Day of Migrants

«Work in Every Part of the World for Peaceful Coexistence»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Because this year we are celebrating the Pauline Year, and thinking of St. Paul as the great itinerant missionary of the Gospel, I chose the theme: «St. Paul Migrant, Apostle of the Gentiles.» Saul, his Jewish name, was born into a family of immigrants in Tarsus, an important city of Cilicia, and grew up in three cultures — Jewish, Hellenistic, and Roman — and with a cosmopolitan mentality. When he converted from being a persecutor of Christians to being an apostle of the Gospel, Paul became the «ambassador» of the risen Christ to make him known to all, in the conviction that in him all peoples are called to form the great family of the children of God.

This is also the Church’s mission, more than ever in this time of globalization. As Christians it is impossible for us not to feel the need to transmit Jesus’ message of love, especially to those who do not know him, or who find themselves in difficult and painful situations. Today I have immigrants particularly in mind. Their reality is indeed diverse: In some cases, thanks be to God, it is peaceful and they are well integrated; in other cases, unfortunately, it is painful, difficult and sometimes even dramatic.

I want to insure that the Christian community looks on every person and every family with attention and asks St. Paul for the strength of a renewed dedication to work in every part of the world for peaceful coexistence of men and women of different ethnicities, cultures and religions.

The Apostle tells us what was the secret of his new life: «I too,» he writes, «have been conquered by Christ Jesus» (Philippians 3:12); and he adds: «Be my imitators» (Philippians 3:17). Indeed, each one of us, according to his own vocation and in the place where he lives and works, is called to bear witness to the Gospel, with a greater concern for those brothers and sisters who have come from different countries for various reasons to live among us, giving value to the phenomenon of migration as an occasion of the meeting of civilizations. Let us pray and act so that this always takes place in a peaceful and constructive way, in respect and dialogue, preventing every temptation to conflict and abuse.

I would like to add a special word for sailors and fisherman, who for some time have been experiencing great uneasiness. Besides the usual difficulties, they are also suffering from the restrictions of bringing chaplains on board, as well as from the dangers of pirates and the damage of illegal fishing. I express my nearness to them and the wish that their generosity in being of assistance at sea be compensated by greater consideration.

Finally, my thoughts to turn to the World Meeting of Families, which is concluding in Mexico City, and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for all these intentions, invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

I continue to follow the conflict in the Gaza Strip with deep trepidation. Let us also bring before the Lord today the hundreds of children, old people, women who are innocent victims of the inconceivable violence, the wounded, those who are grieving for their loved ones and those who have lost their possessions.

I also invite you to accompany with your prayers the efforts of numerous persons of good will who are trying to stop the tragedy. I sincerely hope that it is seen how to profit, with wisdom, from the space opened up to reinstate the truce and move toward peaceful and durable solutions.

In this regard, I renew my encouragement of those who, on the one side and on the other, believe that in the Holy Land there is room for all, that they help their people to rise up from the rubble and terror and courageously take up again the thread of dialogue in justice and truth. This is the only way that they can effectively unlock a future of peace for the children of that dear land!

Today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will conclude next Sunday, Jan. 25. In the southern hemisphere, following the suggestion made by Leo XIII at the end of the 19th century, the time between Ascension and Pentecost will be set aside for prayer for Christian unity.

The Biblical theme is common to all. This year it was suggested by an ecumenical group from Korea and is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel: «One in your hand» (Ezekiel 37:17). Let us too welcome this invitation and pray with greater intensity that Christians walk in a resolute way toward full communion with each other. I especially address Catholics throughout the world that, united in prayer, they do not tire to work to overcome obstacles that still impede full communion among Christ’s disciples. The ecumenical task is even more urgent today, to give to our society, which is marked by tragic conflicts and lacerating divisions, a sign and an impulse toward reconciliation and peace. We will conclude this Week of Prayer in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls with the celebration of vespers, next Sunday, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, who made the unity of the body of Christ an essential nucleus of his preaching.

Today the Diocese of Rome celebrates the Diocesan Day of Catholic Schools. I greet the leaders, directors, teachers, parents and students who are gathered here. Dear friends, the educational service of the Catholic school is more precious today than ever, because children, adolescents and young people need to receive valid instruction in the framework of a coherent vision of man and life. I am near in my prayer to those who teach and study in the Catholic schools of Rome, and I encourage them to always dedicate themselves to the forming of an educational community rich in human and Christian values.

I cordially greet the representatives of Catholic migrant communities present in Rome. Dear friends, I repeat the words of the Apostle Paul: In the Church you are not foreigners or guests, but you are part of the family of God. Know how to insert yourselves well in the ecclesial and civil community, with the wealth of your faith and your traditions.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [In English, he said]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. As we celebrate the week of prayer for Christian unity, let us continue to ask the Lord that all who invoke his name may be one, so that the world may believe.

On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, I encourage individuals, communities and institutions to be generous to all who have left their homeland. May the Father of mercies open our eyes and our hearts to the sufferings and needs of those who have entrusted themselves to our hospitality. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday!

© Copyright 2009 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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