02 April 2024, The Tablet

Pope Francis writes to bishops and migrants in Central America

Pope Francis writes to bishops and migrants in Central America

Pope Francis: ‘I too am a child of migrants.’

Pope Francis sent a letter to the bishops of Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica urging them to develop greater pastoral care for migrants traveling towards the US border.

He encouraged them not to neglect ministry to migrants while also working towards a long-term solution to guarantee the “right not to migrate”, in cooperation with international organisations.

Bishops from Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama met in Panama last week for a conference titled “Easter with our migrant brothers and sisters”, focusing especially on the Church’s pastoral outreach to the hundreds of thousands of migrants who attempt to cross the treacherous Darién Gap that connects Central and South America.

In 2023, more than 500,000 migrants crossed the dangerous jungle corridor between Colombia and Panama, with still more expected to make the journey in 2024.

Pope Francis called for pastors and pastoral workers to be close to migrants, “leading the Church, together with our migrant brothers and sisters, along the paths of hope”.

He continued: “We form a Church ready to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate all, without distinction and without leaving anyone out.”

In another letter to a group of migrants gather in a reception centre in the Panamanian town of Lajas Blancas on 21 March, Pope Francis said: “I too am a child of migrants.”

He referred to his own family, who “set out for a better future”, leaving northern Italy for Argentina in the 1920s, and described migrants as “the face of Christ” whom the Church lovingly offers “relief and hope”.

Francis spoke of his personal desire to accompany migrants, describing the bishops and pastoral workers who aid migrants in his place as “the face of a mother Church who walks with her sons and daughters, in whom she discovers the face of Christ and, like Veronica, lovingly offers relief and hope on the Way of the Cross of migration”.

Migrants, he said, “represent the suffering body of Christ when they are forced to leave their country, to face the risks and tribulations of a difficult journey.”

He appealed to them to never forget their human dignity, saying they were “not disposable” and should never be afraid “to look others in the eye”, and that migrants were “part of the human family and the family of God’s children”.

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