GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Welcoming the Stranger, Clothing the Naked

‘Let us not fall into the trap of withdrawing into ourselves, indifferent to the needs of brothers and concerned only about our interests.’

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Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ prepared address during this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We continue with the reflection on the works of corporal mercy, which the Lord Jesus has given us to keep our faith always alive and dynamic. These works, in fact, make evident that Christians are not tired and lazy in awaiting the final encounter with the Lord, but they go to encounter Him every day, recognizing His face in that of the many individuals who ask for help. Today we reflect on this word of Jesus: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me” (Matthew 25:35-36). How much more timely in our time is the work regarding strangers. The economic crisis, armed conflicts and climate changes drive many people to emigrate. However, migrations are not a new phenomenon, but belong to humanity’s history. It is a lack of historical memory to think that they are in fact only of our years.
The Bible gives us so many concrete examples of migration. Suffice it to think of Abraham. God’s call drives him to leave his country and go to another: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). It was so also for the people of Israel, who from Egypt, where they were slaves, went marching for forty years in the desert until they reached God’s Promised Land. The Holy Family itself – Mary, Joseph and the little Jesus – was constrained to emigrate to flee from Herod’s threat: “Joseph rose and took the child and His Mother by night, and departed to Egypt, where he remained until Herod’s death” (Matthew 2:14-15). The history of humanity is the history of migrations: in all latitudes there are no people that have not known the migratory phenomenon.
In this connection, in the course of the centuries we witnessed great expressions of solidarity, even though social tensions were not lacking. Today, unfortunately, the context of economic crisis fosters the emergence of closed and unwelcome attitudes. Walls and barriers rise in some parts of the world. It seems sometimes that the silent work of many men and women, who spend themselves in different ways to help and assist refugees and migrants, is overshadowed by the noise of others who give voice to an instinctive egoism. But closure is not a solution; rather it ends by fostering criminal trafficking. The only way of solution is that of solidarity — solidarity with the migrant, solidarity with the stranger.
Christians’ commitment in this field is as urgent today as it was in the past. To look only at the last century, we recall the stupendous figure of Saint Frances Cabrini, who dedicated her life, together with her companions, to immigrants in the United States of America. Today we are also in need of these testimonies so that mercy can reach the many who are in need. It is a commitment that involves everyone; no one is excluded. The dioceses, the parishes, the Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Associations and Movements, as well as individual Christians, we are all called to receive brothers and sister fleeing from war, from hunger, from violence and from inhuman conditions of life. All of us together are a great force of support for all those who have lost their homeland, family, work and dignity. A little story happened a few days ago in the city. A refugee was looking for a street and a lady approached him and said to him: “But are you looking for something?” That refugee was without shoes. And he said: “I would like to go to Saint Peter’s to enter the Holy Door.” And the lady thought: “But he doesn’t have shoes, how can he walk?” And she called a taxi. But that migrant, that refugee stank and the driver of the taxi almost did not want him to get in, but in the end he let him get into the taxi. And, in the course of the trip, the lady, who was beside him, asked him about his story as a refugee and migrant: <it took> ten minutes to arrive here. The man told his story of grief, of war, of hunger and why he fled from his country to migrate here. When they arrived, the lady opened her purse to pay the taxi driver and the driver, who at first did not want the migrant to get in because he stank, said to the lady: “No, lady, I should pay you because you made me hear a story that has changed my heart.” This lady knew the pain of a migrant because she had Armenian blood and knew the suffering of her people. When we do something of this sort; initially we refuse because it gives us some bother, “but … he stinks …” But in the end, the story perfumes our soul and makes us change. Think of this story and let us think what we can do for the refugees.
And the other thing is to clothe the naked: what does it mean if not to restore dignity to one who has lost it? Certainly, to give garments to those deprived of them, but we think also of the women victims of trafficking thrown out on the streets, or of the others, too many ways of using the human body as merchandise, even of minors. And so, also, to not have work, a home, a just salary is a form of nakedness, or to be discriminated because of race or because of faith – they are all forms of ‘nakedness,” in face of which as Christians we are called to be attentive, vigilant and ready to act.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not fall into the trap of withdrawing into ourselves, indifferent to the needs of brothers and concerned only about our interests. It is precisely in the measure in which we open to others that life becomes fecund, societies re-acquire peace and individuals recover their full dignity. And do not forget that lady, do not forget that migrant who stank and do not forget the driver whose soul was changed by the migrant.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT] Greeting in Italian
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims! I am happy to receive the faithful of the Diocese of Ivrea, with the Bishop, Monsignor Edoardo Cerrato; the “Fidei Donum” priests of the Diocese of Brescia; generous diocese, that gives “Fidei Donum” priests …; and the women religious participants in the meeting promoted by USMI. Dear brothers and sisters, may your pilgrimage for the Holy Year revive your communion with the Successor of Peter and the universal Church and render you witnesses of Divine Mercy in your local Churches.
I greet the specialists of the Umberto I Polyclinic, with the youngsters affected by the Apert syndrome and their relatives; the participants in the national congress of the Society of Organ Transplants; the Welcome Network Association; the Daughters of Charity with the little ones of the “Puppies of Aquila” family home of Mollas in Albania and the numerous students, in particular those of the De Carlo Lyceum of Giugliano di Campania and of the Gerini-Torlonia Institute of Rome.
Finally, my greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. At the end of the month of October, I want to recommend the prayer of the Rosary. May this simple Marian prayer indicate to you, dear young people, the way to interpret God’s will in your life; love this prayer, dear sick, because it bears in it consolation for the mind and heart. May it become for you, dear newlyweds, a privileged moment of spiritual intimacy in your new family.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]

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