Dear brothers and sisters:
Faith assures us that the Kingdom of God is already mysteriously present in our land (cf. Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. Gaudium et Spes, 39); However, we must see in pain that it also finds obstacles and opposing forces today. Violent conflicts and genuine wars continue to lace humanity; injustices and discriminations happen; it is difficult to overcome economic and social imbalances, both locally and globally. And it is the poor and the disadvantaged who suffer the most from the consequences of this situation.
Economically more advanced societies develop within them the tendency to a marked individualism that, combined with the utilitarian mentality and multiplied by the media network, produces the “globalization of indifference”. In this scenario, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become an emblem of exclusion because, in addition to enduring difficulties because of the same condition, they are often subjected to negative trials, since they are held accountable for social ills. The attitude towards them is a sign of alarm, which warns us of the moral decline we face if we continue to give space to the culture of discarding. In fact, on this path, every subject who does not respond to the cans of physical, mental and social well-being risks being marginalized and excluded.
For this reason, the presence of migrants and refugees, as in general vulnerable people, today represents an invitation to recover some essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity, which risk numbing the most comforting lifestyle. Which is why ” it is not just about migrants” means that by showing interest in them, we are also interested in ourselves, for all; that taking care of them, we all grow up; that listening to them, we also give voice to that part of us that we may keep hidden because today is not well seen.
“Cheer up, it’s me, don’t be afraid!” (Mt 14.27). It’s not just about migrants, it’s also about our fears. The wickedness and ugliness of our time increases “our fear of the ‘others’, the unknowns, the marginalized, the outsiders … And this is particularly noticeable today, in the face of the arrival of migrants and refugees knocking on our door in search of protection, security and a better future. It is true, fear is legitimate, also because there is a lack of preparation for this meeting” (Homily, Sacrofano, 15 February 2019). The problem is not the fact of having doubts and feeling fear. The problem is when these doubts and fears condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of becoming intolerant, closed and perhaps, without realizing it, even racist beings. Fear thus deprives us of desire and the capacity to encounter with the other, with one who is different; deprives us of an opportunity to meet with the Lord (cf. Homily in the Eucharistic Concelebration of World Migrant and Refugee Day, 14 January 2018).
“For if ye love those who love you, what prize shall ye have? Don’t publicans do the same too?” (Mt 5.46). It’s not just about migrants: it’s about charity. Through the works of charity we show our faith (cf. St 2.18). And it is the greatest charity that is exercised with those who cannot reciprocte and perhaps not even give thanks. “What is at stake is the face that we want to give ourselves as a society and the value of every life …. The progress of our peoples … depends above all on the ability to be moved by the one who knocks on the door and with his stigmatized gaze and deposes all false idols who mortgage and enslave life; idols that promise an apparent and fleeting happiness, built apart from the reality and suffering of others” (Discourse in the Diocesan Caritas of Rabat, 30 March 2019).
“But a Samaritan on the road came to him and, seeing him, took pity” (Lk 10:33). It’s not just about migrants: it’s about our humanity. What drives that Samaritan, a foreigner to the Jews, to stop is compassion, a feeling that cannot be explained solely on a rational level. Compassion touches the most sensitive fiber of our humanity, causing a pressing impulse to “be close” to those we see in difficulty. As Jesus Himself teaches us (cf. Mt 9.35-36; 14.13-14; 15.32-37), feeling compassion means recognizing each other’s suffering and immediately moving into action to alleviate, heal and save. Feeling compassion means giving space to the tenderness that today’s society often asks us to suppress. “Opening yourself to others does not impoverish, but rather enriches, because it helps to be more human: to recognize oneseffly part of a larger whole and to interpret life as a gift to others, to see as an objective, not one’s own interests, but the good of humanity” (Speech at the Heydar Aliyev Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, 2 October 2016).
“Beware of despising one of these little ones, for I say unto you that their angels are always seeing in heaven the face of my heavenly Father” (Mt 18:10). It’s not just about migrants: it’s about not excluding anyone. Today’s world is becoming more elitist and cruel to the excluded. Developing countries continue to deplete their best natural and human resources for the benefit of a few privileged markets. Wars affect only some regions of the world; however, the manufacture of weapons and their sale takes place in other regions, which then do not want to take care of the refugees that these conflicts generate. Those who suffer the consequences are always the little ones, the poor, the most vulnerable, who are prevented from sitting at the table and left only the “crumbs” of the banquet (cf. Lk 16:19-21). The Church “on the way out […] he knows how to take the initiative without fear, go out to meet, seek the distant and reach the crossroads of the roads to invite the excluded” (Exhortation ap. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 24). Exclusive development makes the rich rich richer and the poor poor poorer. True development is one that aims to include all the men and women of the world, promoting their integral growth, and also caring for future generations.
“He that will be great among you, may he be your servant; and whoever wants to be first, be a slave to all” (Mk 10:43-44). It’s not just about migrants: it’s about putting the last ones first. Jesus Christ asks us not to give in to the logic of the world, which justifies abusing others to achieve our personal or our group’s benefit—first me and then the others! Instead, the Christian’s true motto is “first the last!” “An individualistic spirit is fertile ground for the sense of indifference to others to mature, leading to it being treated as pure object of sale, which induces disinterest in the humanity of others and ends up making people pusillanimous and cynical. Aren’t these the attitudes we often assume towards the poor, the marginalized, or the last in society? And how many last are there in our societies! Among these, I am thinking above all of migrants, with the burden of difficulties and sufferings that they must endure every day in the sometimes desperate search for a place where they can live in peace and dignity” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 11 January 2016). In gospel logic, the latter are the first, and we have to put ourselves at your service.
“I have come that they may have life and have abundant life” (Jn 10:10). It’s not just about migrants: it’s about the person as a whole, all the people. In this affirmation of Jesus we find the heart of his mission: to make everyone receive the gift of life in fullness, according to the will of the Father. In every political activity, in each programme, in every pastoral action, we must always put the person at the centre, in its many dimensions, including the spiritual one. And this applies to all people, to whom we must recognize fundamental equality. Therefore, “development does not come down to simple economic growth. To be authentic, it must be integral, that is, to promote all men and all man” (St. Paul VI, Letter enc. Populorum progressio, 14).
“Thus ye are no longer strangers or strangers, but fellow citizens of the saints, and members of the family of God” (Eph 2:19). It’s not just about migrants: it’s about building the city of God and man. In our time, also called the age of migration, there are many innocent people who are victims of the “great deception” of technology development and consumerist without limits (cf. Letter enc. Laudato si’, 34). And so they embark on a journey to a “paradise” that inexorably betrays their expectations. His sometimes uncomfortable presence contributes to dispelling the myths of progress reserved for a few, but built on the exploitation of many. “It is, then, that we are the first to see it so that we can help others see in the migrant and in the refugee not only a problem that must be faced, but a brother and sister who must be welcomed, respected and loved, an occasion that Providence offers us to contribute to the construction of a more just society , a fuller democracy, a more supportive country, a more fraternal world and a more open Christian community, according to the Gospel” (Message for World Migrant and Refugee Day 2014).
Dear Brothers and Sisters: The answer to the challenge posed by contemporary migration can be summed up in four verbs: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating. But these verbs do not apply only to migrants and refugees. They express the mission of the Church in relation to all the inhabitants of the existential peripheries, who must be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated. If we put these verbs into practice, we contribute to building the city of God and man, promoting the integral human development of all people, and also helping the world community to approach the sustainable development goals it has set that will otherwise be difficult to achieve.
Therefore, not only is the cause of migrants at stake, it is not just about them, but about all of us, the present and the future of the human family. Migrants, and especially those most vulnerable, help us read the “signs of the times.” Through them, the Lord calls us to conversion, to free ourselves from the exclusives, from indifference, and from the culture of discarding. Through them, the Lord invites us to reapopiate our Christian life in its entirety and to contribute, each according to his own vocation, to the construction of a world that responds more and more to God’s plan.
This is the wish that I accompany with my prayer, invoking, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Way, abundant blessings on all the migrants and refugees of the world, and on whom their fellow travelers are made.
Vatican, 27 May 2019