26 September 2023, The Tablet

Francis leads Church calls for solidarity with migrants

Pope Francis said that the loss of faith was evident “in the rejection of immigrants, of countless unborn children and abandoned elderly people”.

Francis leads Church calls for solidarity with migrants

Pope Francis prayed before a Camargue cross in Marseilles dedicated to migrants and sailors lost at sea. The cross represents the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pope Francis urged Europe to heed the distress of migrants during his visit to Marseilles last week, describing the port city as “the gateway that receives immigrants arriving from all over the Mediterranean”.

His two-day visit closed the “Mediterranean Meetings” which gathered bishops and young people to reflect on migration. He said the migrant route through the Mediterranean had become a “graveyard of dignity” and urged European governments to do more to care for migrants crossing it.

“Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they look for welcome,” he said, in remarks delivered in front of President Emmanuel Macron, whose government plans tougher measures to control migration.

He insisted that “people who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued” and thanked aid groups helping migrants at sea, condemning efforts to prevent rescue as “gestures of hate”.

At a public Mass on 23 September, Francis said that the loss of faith and the hardening of hearts was evident “in the rejection of so many immigrants, of countless unborn children and abandoned elderly people”. He called for a “leap” of faith, saying that God “inconveniences us, sets us in motion, and makes us leap”.

Speaking to the press during his flight back to Rome that evening, Francis reiterated that euthanasia and abortion are “bad compassion”.

“You don’t play with life, neither at the beginning nor at the end,” he said.

The next day marked the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Caritas Italy called for more humanitarian corridors to help migrants start a better life in a safe country, urging countries along migration routes to work together “to give a chance to all these people”.

In Africa, the Zimbabwe Catholics Bishops' Conference issued a statement saying it was challenged “as to how we can make our communities ever more inclusive and offer protection, promotion and integration of migrants and refugees”.

The bishops reported that their parliamentary liaison office “is active in advocating for the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees in Zimbabwe”. It works with Caritas to offer pastoral counselling services and advocacy for people who are sometimes abruptly arrested.

The statement was signed by Archbishop Alex Thomas Kaliyanil of Bulawayo, conference spokesperson on migrants and refugees.

The Church in the Philippines last Sunday remembered all migrants who contribute to the nation through their remittances and sacrifices.

In the US, the Jesuits criticised backlogs in US immigration processing which leave asylum seekers to wait nearly a year for work permits, preventing them from finding meaningful work.

In the Archdiocese of Washington, Bishop Evelio Menjivar-Ayala celebrated a livestreamed refugee-themed Mass from the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle, while the Archdiocese of Chicago held a “National Migration Week” Mass.

At Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on 17 September, the Archbishop of Los Angeles José Gómez preached about the need for comprehensive immigration reform amid political deadlock and rising migrant numbers.

“This has been another frustrating summer, part of another frustrating year for all of us who hope for immigration reform,” Gómez said.

“People are being sent from the border all over the country. There is no plan for them to be welcome. No plan for them to be served. We are all working together to welcome them and provide for their needs. But our leaders seem to be standing by instead of coming together and working to fix our broken immigration system.”

Echoing Pope Francis, Gómez said: “We have the power to love as [God] loves. We have the duty to forgive as He forgives. Let us especially ask Him to give us new eyes to see that every person is someone just like us.”

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