As President Obama Friday explained his executive order to stop deportations and his Republican opponents decried his action as an imperial act of a lawless president, Pope Francis also spoke about immigrants and immigration, addressing participants at the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants.
Francis said that notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, "migration is still an aspiration to hope.”
He ended is address with this meditation:
The Christian community, in fact, is continuously engaged in welcoming migrants and sharing with them God’s gifts, in particular the gift of faith. The Church promotes pastoral plans for the evangelization and support of migrants throughout their journey from their country of origin, through countries of transit, to the receiving countries. She gives particular attention to meeting the spiritual needs of migrants through catechesis, liturgy and the celebration of the Sacraments.
Sadly, migrants often experience disappointment, distress and loneliness. In effect, the migrant worker has to deal with the problem both of being uprooted and needing to integrate. Here the Church also seeks to be a source of hope: she develops programs of education and orientation; she raises her voice in defense of migrants’ rights; she offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may be treated as children of God.
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When encountering migrants, it is important to adopt an integrated perspective, capable of valuing their potential rather than seeing them only as a problem to be confronted and resolved. The authentic right to development regards every person and all people, viewed integrally. This demands that all people be guaranteed a minimal level of participation in the life of the human community. How much more necessary must this be in the case of the Christian community, where no one is a stranger and, therefore, everyone is worthy of being welcomed and supported.
The Church, beyond being a community of the faithful that sees the face of Jesus Christ in its neighbor, is a Mother without limits and without frontiers. She is the Mother of all and so she strives to foster the culture of welcome and solidarity, where no one is considered useless, out of place or disposable. I wrote of this in my Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year: “It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God’s own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ!”
Migrants, therefore, by virtue of their very humanity, even prior to their cultural values, widen the sense of human fraternity. At the same time, their presence is a reminder of the need to eradicate inequality, injustice and abuses. In that way, migrants will be able to become partners in constructing a richer identity for the communities which provide them hospitality, as well as the people who welcome them, prompting the development of a society which is inclusive, creative and respectful of the dignity of all.