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Catholics must counteract ‘refusal to welcome’ migrants, speakers say


Catholic News Service

ROME  — The Catholic Church and Catholic agencies that work with migrants and refugees around the world are called to educate, advocate and seek alternative host countries in the face of a growing “refusal to welcome” newcomers, as the Vatican secretary of state defined the situation.

Opening the plenary assemble of the International Catholic Migration Commission March 6 in Rome, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’ top collaborator, decried how “the most economically advanced” nations, especially those who “undeniably owe a great deal of their development to migrants,” are now trying to close their borders. Read more »

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Pope Francis urges respect for migrants, refugees


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With millions of people fleeing violence, persecution and poverty around the globe, individual nations must expand options that make it possible for migrants and refugees to cross their borders safely and legally, Pope Francis said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest a man in San Clemente, Calif., May 11. Pope Francis released a statement Aug. 21 urging respect for the life and dignity of migrants and refugees. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

“The principle of the centrality of the human person, firmly stated by my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI, obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018.

The Vatican will mark the day Jan. 14, while in the United States, the bishops’ conference sets aside an entire week, Jan. 7-13, as National Migration Week.

The pope’s message for the annual event was released Aug. 21, which is earlier than normal, to stimulate Catholic involvement in the U.N. process for developing and adopting a Global Compact for Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees.

Since the U.N. General Assembly voted in September 2016 to draw up the compacts, the Vatican and many Catholic organizations have been participating in the discussions and hearings to formulate them. The U.N. hopes to have a draft of the compacts ready by February and to present them to the General Assembly in September 2018.

Approving the development of the compacts, “world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights,” the pope said in his message. He urged Catholics to get involved by lobbying their governments to include in the compacts proposals that would ensure the welcome, protection, promotion and integration of migrants and refugees.

For Catholics, he said, “every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

“The Lord entrusts to the church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future,” Pope Francis wrote.

To fulfill its duties toward migrants and refugees, he said, the church needs all of its members to act in solidarity with them, whether it is in countries of departure, transit, arrival or return.

In the message, Pope Francis called for countries to: “increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families”; grant special temporary visas to people fleeing conflict; uphold the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees “independent of their legal status”; educate people in migrant-sending countries about their rights and obligations abroad; stop the detention of underage migrants; provide migrants, refugees and asylum seekers with work permits so they can begin supporting themselves and contributing to their new communities; and guarantee the right of all migrants and refugees to practice their faith.

“Considering the current situation, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally,” the pope said.

And, he said, even when faced with situations in which someone has entered a country without the proper legal permits, “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.”

Nations and local communities, the pope said, need to do more to integrate migrants and refugees in the communities that welcome them. Integration does not mean the newcomers will be asked to give up their cultural identity, but that they will have opportunities to share their cultures and to discover the cultural heritage of their new communities.

Pope Francis signed the message Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, and entrusted to Mary “the hopes of all the world’s migrants and refugees and the aspirations of the communities which welcome them, so that, responding to the Lord’s supreme commandment, we may all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.”

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Best way to fight terrorism is to welcome refugees, Pope Francis says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Offering migrants and refugees truly helpful and loving hospitality is the greatest guarantee against terrorism, Pope Francis said.

The current refugee and migration crisis, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, has become “the greatest humanitarian crisis after the Second World War,” he said.

Demonstrators march Parliament in London Sept. 17 during an Amnesty International protest in support of refugees. Offering migrants and refugees truly helpful and loving hospitality is the greatest guarantee against terrorism, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Demonstrators march Parliament in London Sept. 17 during an Amnesty International protest in support of refugees. Offering migrants and refugees truly helpful and loving hospitality is the greatest guarantee against terrorism, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

“At this place and time in history, there is great need for men and women who hear the cry of the poor and respond with mercy and generosity,” he told graduates of Jesuit schools and universities during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 17.

The alumni are members of the World Union and the European Confederation of Jesuit Alumni; they were in Rome taking part in a conference on the migration and refugee crisis.

The pope told them that with their Jesuit education and understanding of Gospel values, they can help the church “respond more fully to the human tragedy of refugees through acts of mercy that promote their integration into the European context and beyond.”

“I encourage you to welcome refugees into your homes and communities, so that their first experience of Europe is not the traumatic experience of sleeping cold on the streets, but one of warm human welcome,” he said.

“Remember that authentic hospitality is a profound Gospel value that nurtures love and is our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism,” he added.

Too many refugee children and young people lack access to education, he said, urging the alumni to work with the Jesuit Refugee Service and “put your mercy in motion” to help “build a stronger Europe and a brighter future for refugees.”

He told his audience to remember they were not alone as many church organizations and individuals were also dedicated to helping the marginalized and excluded.

“Remember that the love of God accompanies you in this work. You are God’s eyes, mouth, hands and heart in this world.”

“I urge you to help transform your communities into places of welcome where all God’s children have the opportunity not simply to survive, but to grow, flourish and bear fruit,” he said.

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In his passion, Jesus reveals God’s mercy, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Just as the crowds and government officials tried to dodge responsibility for Jesus’ fate after he was arrested, so today too many individuals and countries want someone else to care for refugees fleeing violence and migrants seeking a better life, Pope Francis said.

Preaching about the story of Jesus’ passion and death on Palm Sunday, March 20, the pope said that in addition to betrayal and injustice, Jesus experienced indifference as the crowds who had hailed his entry into Jerusalem, Herod, Pilate and even his own disciples washed their hands of him.

Pope Francis holds palm fronds as he leads a ceremony at the obelisk during Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 20. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis holds palm fronds as he leads a ceremony at the obelisk during Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 20. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“This makes me think of so many people, so many emarginated, so many migrants and refugees for whom many do not want to assume responsibility for their fate,” the pope said in his homily.

Greece and other European countries have been overwhelmed by refugees, particularly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. An agreement between Turkey and the European Union went into effect on Palm Sunday to prevent refugees from attempting dangerous sea crossings from Turkey and to stem the continuing flow of refugees into Europe. Under the agreement, most refugees arriving in Greece will be returned to Turkey. For each refugee returned, one who has not left Turkey should be resettled in the European Union.

Carrying a woven palm branch, known as a “palmurello,” Pope Francis led the Palm Sunday Mass with more than 60,000 people gathered on a warm spring morning in St. Peter’s Square.

Young people from Poland and around the world assisted at the Mass, carrying long palm branches in the procession and proclaiming the Scripture readings. With Krakow, Poland, set to host the international gathering of World Youth Day with Pope Francis in July, the day’s second reading was in Polish.

At the end of Mass, before reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his hope that in July many young Catholics would converge on Krakow, “homeland of St. John Paul II, who began World Youth Day.”

The Palm Sunday liturgy begins with a commemoration of Jesus entering Jerusalem to acclamations of “Hosanna” from the crowd. In his homily the pope said, “We have made that enthusiasm our own; by waving our olive and palm branches we have expressed our praise and our joy, our desire to receive Jesus who comes to us.”

The commemoration is not just about a historical event, the pope said. “Just as he entered Jerusalem, so he desires to enter our cities and our lives. As he did in the Gospel, riding on a donkey, so too he comes to us in humility.”

Pope Francis prayed that nothing would “prevent us from finding in him the source of our joy, true joy, which abides and brings peace; for it is Jesus alone who saves us from the snares of sin, death, fear and sadness.”

On the cross, at the height of his humiliation, Jesus reveals God’s identity as the God of mercy, Pope Francis said, adding that the cross is God’s “cathedra,” the place from which he teaches people all they need to know about him.

“He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the centurion,” he said.

Jesus’ life and death, the pope said, was a story of how, out of love, he “emptied and humbled” himself to save humanity.

In Holy Week, he said, the first sign of Jesus’ endless love is the scene of him washing the disciples’ feet, “as only servants would have done.”

“He shows us by example that we need to allow his love to reach us, a love which bends down to us,” Pope Francis said. People must accept Jesus’ love, experience his tenderness and give witness to the fact that “true love consists in concrete service.”

“Hanging from the wood of the cross,” the pope said, Jesus faced his last temptation, which was to come down from the cross, “to conquer evil by might and to show the face of a powerful and invincible God.”

Instead, Jesus “takes upon himself all our pain that he may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred,” the pope said.


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