Marking the 97th World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the "migration experience" of the Church and hoped for a future where all people consider themselves part of "one human family."
The Son of God was a refugee himself, said the Pope in his message before the noon Angelus prayer on Jan. 16, a beautiful spring-like day in Rome.
Beginning from when Jesus was born and his parents fled to Egypt to protect his life, the Church has always lived the "migration experience," he said.
He pointed out that the World Day of Migrants and Refugees invites reflection on the experience of the many people today who abandon their nations "often ... in dramatic conditions" in search of better lives.
Christians sometimes "feel forced to leave" their homes but in other cases their voluntary movements from one place to another become a source of "missionary dynamism" for God's message, "traversing peoples and cultures and reaching new frontiers."
The international day to remember those in movement, he said, is also a day to think to "the goal of the great voyage of humanity."
The goal, he said, is that of "forming a single family ... with all the differences that enrich it, but without barriers, recognizing ourselves all as brothers."
He cited a pair of quotes from Second Vatican Council documents to illustrate the Church's vision. Quoting "Nostra aetate," the Pope said, “one is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth."
"The Church," he continued, with a passage from the document "Lumen gentium,” "in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race."
"For this," he said, "it is fundamental that Christians, despite being dispersed through the world and ... diverse by culture and traditions, be a single thing, as the Lord wishes."
He pointed to the Jan. 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as an initiative with this scope in mind. The Day of Jewish-Christian dialogue on Jan. 17 is also a "very meaningful" occasion that serves as a call back to "the importance of the common roots that unite Jews and Christians," he said.
He concluded his pre-Angelus address with a prayer that Mary intercede to bring about the full unity of all those who follow Christ.
Following the prayer, the Pope expressed his joy for the May 1 beatification of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and prayed for all those affected by recent flooding in Australia, Brazil, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.