All Christians must recognize Jesus Christ in migrants and refugees, and welcome them with “respect and solidarity” while avoiding “suspicion and prejudice,” Pope Francis has said. “The mission of the Church, herself a pilgrim in the world and the Mother of all, is thus to love Jesus Christ, to adore and love him, particularly in the poorest and most abandoned; among these are certainly migrants and refugees, who are trying to escape difficult living conditions and dangers of every kind,” Pope Francis said in his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, released Sept. 23. The Pope noted the “vast movements of migration” and the many people who leave their homelands “with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions.” He stressed the conscience’s call to “touch human misery” and put into practice Jesus’ call to care for the stranger, as shown in the Gospel of Matthew: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” The Pope warned that human weakness includes the temptation “to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length.” “The courage born of faith, hope and love enables us to reduce the distances that separate us from human misery,” he said. “Jesus Christ is always waiting to be recognized in migrants and refugees, in displaced persons and in exiles, and through them he calls us to share our resources, and occasionally to give up something of our acquired riches.” Pope Francis warned that “suspicion and prejudice” towards migrants can appear even in church communities, noting that this can arise “prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution.” “In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need,” he said. The World Day of Migrants and Refugees dates back to 1914, having been established under Pope St. Pius X. It will be commemorated on January 18, 2015. Pope Francis’ message frequently alluded to the 2015 theme, “Church without frontiers, Mother to all.” “From the beginning, the Church has been a mother with a heart open to the whole world, and has been without borders. This mission has continued for two thousand years,” he said. The Church spreads “a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable.” Migration movements are a call to “deepen and strengthen” values that strengthen peaceful coexistence. The scale of these movements also shows the need for “a systematic and active cooperation between states and international organizations” to regulate and manage them. The globalization of migration also requires the globalization of charity and cooperation, Pope Francis said. “Solidarity with migrants and refugees must be accompanied by the courage and creativity necessary to develop, on a world-wide level, a more just and equitable financial and economic order, as well as an increasing commitment to peace, the indispensable condition for all authentic progress.” He closed his message by addressing migrants specifically. “You have a special place in the heart of the Church, and you help her to enlarge her heart and to manifest her motherhood towards the entire human family. Do not lose your faith and hope!” Pope Francis exhorted. He cited the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt as an inspiration for migrants. “Just as the maternal heart of the Blessed Virgin and the kind heart of Saint Joseph kept alive the confidence that God would never abandon them, so in you may the same hope in the Lord never be wanting,” Pope Francis said.
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