On Wednesday Pope Francis renewed his appeal on behalf of the tens of thousands struggling to enter other countries as they flee war and violence, asking global leaders to “open their hearts” and doors to migrants and refugees.
“How many of our brothers are currently living a real and dramatic situation of exile, far away from their homeland, with their eyes still full of the rubble of their homes, and in their heart the fear, and often, unfortunately, the pain of having lost loved ones,” the Pope said March 16.
Such cases can often lead one to ask questions such as “where is God? How is it possible that so much suffering befalls innocent men, women and children?” he said.
Francis lamented that migrants and refugees fleeing violence in their homeland frequently find “closed doors” when attempting to enter another country.
These people suffer due to a loss of land, a lack of food, and they “don’t feel welcome,” he said, adding that “I like it a lot when I see nations, governments, who open their hearts and open their doors” to the migrants and refugees seeking to enter.
Pope Francis spoke to the nearly 40,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for his his March 16 general audience.
He continued his catechesis on mercy as understood through scripture, focusing his speech on Chapters 30-31 of the Book of Jeremiah, which also referred to as the “book of consolation” due to the hope the prophet announces.
Francis noted how in the passage read at the audience, the prophet Jeremiah goes to the Israelites, who were in exile, and announces the return to their homeland.
The re-entrance of the Israelites into their land is a sign “of the infinite love of God the Father who does not abandon his children, but cares for them and saves them,” he said.
The period of exile was “devastating” for Israel, he said, noting that after suffering so much due to the destruction of their country and the loss of their temple, it was hard for them to continue believing in the Lord’s goodness.
Pope Francis explained that we also experience a sort of exile today when experiences of suffering and death make us think that God has abandoned us.
However, despite the feelings of forgotten-ness and abandonment in such situations, the prophet Jeremiah gives us another response: “the exiled people can return to see their land and experience the mercy of the Lord.”
“God is not absent,” he said, explaining that this also goes for the “dramatic situations” of war and violence today.
He said that “we must not give in to despair,” but continue “to be confident that good overcomes evil and that the Lord dries every tear and frees us from every fear.”
Francis closed his address by pointing to the Jeremiah’s announcement that “I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy.”
Jesus has brought this message to fulfillment, he said, explaining that the “the true and radical return from exile and the comforting light after the darkness of the crisis of faith,” takes place at Easter.
In the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, we see “the full and definitive experience of the love of God, a merciful love which gives peace, joy and eternal life.”
After his speech Pope Francis offered special greetings to groups of pilgrims present from different countries around the world. In his greeting to Arab-speaking pilgrims, the Pope offered his solidarity to those in the Middle East who are currently suffering due to war and violence.
He lamented that there are many people who experience exile, desperation, grief and persecution, which can push one to doubt God’s love and goodness.
This doubt, he said, “dissipates in front of the truth that God is faithful, close, and keeps his promise to those who do not doubt Him, and for those who hope against hope.”
Francis noted that the Lord’s consolation is near to those “who pass through the agonizing night of doubt, clinging and hoping for the dawn of the Mercy of God, which the totality of the darkness and injustice will never be able to defeat.”
He closed his remarks by praying that the Lord would bless all who are living in such dramatic situations, and protect them from evil.