VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Noting that migrants and refugees live often painful and difficult circumstances, Benedict XVI has urged Christians to work toward living side-by-side in peace with peoples of other cultures and religions.
The Pope said this today on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The theme for the day is “St. Paul Migrant, Apostle of the Gentiles.”
“Saul,” the Pontiff said, using St. Paul’s 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,” he said.
“This is also the Church’s mission,” the Holy Father continued, “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,” he added.
Benedict XVI said that everyone, “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.”
He then called the “phenomenon of migration” an “occasion of the meeting of civilizations.”
“Let us pray and act,” the Pontiff said, “so that this always takes place in a peaceful and constructive way, in respect and dialogue, preventing every temptation to conflict and abuse.”
Turning his attention to sailors and fisherman, the Holy Father expressed his concern for their “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,” he noted. “I express my nearness to them and the wish that their generosity in being of assistance at sea be compensated by greater consideration.”