Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers. He reflected on the topic “The Pastoral Concern of the Church in the Context of Forced Migrations.”
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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: the 20th since 25 years ago Blessed John Paul II elevated to Pontifical Council the former Pontifical Commission. I rejoice with you over this achievement and I thank the Lord for all that He has allowed to be accomplished. I greet with affection the President, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, and I am grateful to him for having made himself the spokesman of the sentiments of all. I greet the Secretary, Members, Consultors and Officials of the dicastery. You, dear Cardinal, made reference to Syria and the Near East, which are always present in my prayer.
The theme of your meeting is “The Pastoral Concern of the Church in the Context of Forced Migrations,” in coincidence with the publication of the Dicastery’s Document titled To Receive Christ in the Refugees and in Persons Forcefully Uprooted. The Document calls attention to the millions of refugees, dispersed and stateless, touching also the wound of the traffic of human beings, which increasingly affects children, involved in the worst forms of exploitation and also recruited for armed conflicts. I confirm that the “traffic of persons” is an ignoble activity, a disgrace for our societies that call themselves civilized! Exploiters and clients at all levels should make a serious examination of conscience before themselves and before God! The Church renews today her strong appeal for the protection of the dignity and centrality of every person, respecting his fundamental rights, as her Social Doctrine stresses, rights that she requests be really extended where they are not recognized to millions of men and women in every Continent. In a world where there is much talk of rights, how many times human dignity is trampled. In a world where there is so much talk of rights, it seems the only one that has them is money. Dear brothers and sisters, we live in a world where money commands. We live in a world, in a culture where the fetishism of money reigns.
You justly took to heart the situations in which the family of nations is called to intervene, in a spirit of fraternal solidarity, with programs of protection, often on a background of tragic events, which strike almost daily the life of so many persons. I express to you my appreciation and gratitude, and I encourage you to continue on the path of service to the poorest and marginalized brothers. We recall the words of Paul VI: “For the Catholic Church no one is a stranger, no one is excluded, no one is far away” (Homily for the Closing of Vatican Council II, December 8, 1965). We are in fact only one human family that, in the multiplicity of its differences, walks towards unity, valuing solidarity and dialogue between peoples.
The Church is Mother and her maternal attention is manifested with particular tenderness and closeness to one who is constrained to flee from his own country and who lives between uprootedness and integration. This tension destroys persons. Christian compassion – “suffering with,” com-passion – is expressed first of all in the commitment to know the events that push one to leave forcefully his homeland, and where it is necessary to give voice to one who is unable to have his cry of pain and oppression heard. In this you carry out an important task also in rendering Christian communities sensitive to the many brothers marked by wounds that affect their existence: violence, abuse of power, distance from family affection, traumatic events, flight from home and uncertainty about the future in refugee camps. They are all elements that dehumanize and must push every Christian and the whole community to concrete attention.
Today, however, dear friends, I would like to invite all to receive in their eyes and heart the refugees and persons forcefully uprooted and to give them the light of hope. Hope that is expressed in expectations for the future, in the desire for friendly relations, in the desire to participate in the society that receives them, also through learning the language, access to work and education for the littlest ones. I admire the courage of the one who waits to be able to take up again, gradually, a normal life, in the hope that joy and love will make glad his existence. We all can and must nourish this hope!
Above all I invite political leaders and lawmakers and the entire International Community to consider the reality of persons forcefully uprooted with effective initiatives and new approaches to protect their dignity, to improve the quality of their life and to address the challenges that emerge in modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery. It is, I stress, about human persons, who appeal to solidarity and assistance, who are in need of urgent interventions, but also and above all of understanding and goodness. God is good; let us imitate God. Their condition cannot leave us indifferent. And we, as Church, recall that by curing the wounds of refugees, of the dispersed and of victims of trafficking we put into practice the commandment of charity that Jesus left us, when He identified Himself with the foreigner, with one who suffers, with all innocent victims of violence and exploitation. We should reread more often Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew, where he speaks of the Last Judgment (cf. 31-46). And here I would also like to appeal for attention, which every pastor and Christian Community must have, for the journey of faith of Christian refugees and those forcefully uprooted from their reality, as well as of Christian emigrants. They require particular pastoral care which respects their traditions and accompanies them in a harmonious integration in the ecclesial realities in which they are living. May our Christian communities be truly places of hospitality, listening and communion!
Dear friends, do not forget the flesh of Christ that is the flesh of the refugees: their flesh is the flesh of Christ. It is for you to orientate all organizations committed in the field of forced migrations to new forms of responsibility. Unfortunately, it is a phenomenon in constant expansion; hence, your task is ever more demanding, to foster concrete answers of closeness and support of persons, taking into account the different local situations.
I invoke upon each of you the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, may she illumine your reflection and your action. On my part, I assure you of my prayer, closeness and also my admiration for all that you do in this field, blessing you from my heart. Thank you.[Translation by ZENIT]