Praying the Angelus January 18th, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and encouraged Christians to look at immigration as "an opportunity for an encounter between civilizations” that can take place peacefully through prayer and action.
The Pontiff pointed out how this year, specially dedicated to St. Paul, he is choosing to point migrants’ attention to St. Paul as a model. “Saul, this is his Jewish name, was born into a family of Jewish immigrants to Tarsus, an important city in Cilicia,” the Pope explained.
“Paul grew up tricultural, Jewish, Greek and Roman, with a cosmopolitan mentality. When he converted from persecutor of Christians to apostle of the Gospel, Paul became an ‘ambassador' of the risen Christ in order to make him known to all, in the conviction that in him all peoples are called to form the great family of the children of God.”
This, the Holy Father added, “is also the mission of the Church, now more than ever in this time of globalization.” Benedict XVI exhorted Christians to strive to proclaim the Gospel, “especially to those who do not know it, or who find themselves in difficult and painful situations.”
Pope Benedict recalled the wide variety of reasons that people become immigrants: in some cases, serene and well integrated, and in others, difficult and often dramatic. "I would like to confirm," he said, "that the Christian community looks at every person and every family with attention, and asks St. Paul for the strength for a renewed effort in order to foster, in every part of the world, peaceful coexistence between men and women of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions."
Rather than an occasion for strife, the Pope exhorted Christians to strive to use the phenomenon of immigration as “an opportunity for an encounter between civilizations.” What is needed are prayer and action “so that this may always take place in a peaceful and constructive way, in respect and dialogue, preventing any temptation to conflict and exploitation," he said.
The Holy Father recalled in a special way sailors and fishermen, who suffer every sort of abuse. “In addition to the usual difficulties," Pope Benedict added, "they suffer restrictions in regard to going ashore and bringing chaplains aboard, and face the risks of piracy and the harm of illegal fishing.
“I express my closeness to them and my hope that their generosity, in activities of aid by sea, may be repaid with greater consideration."
At the conclusion of today's Angelus, Pope Benedict issued an appeal for peace in the Gaza Strip with an emphasis on helping the innocent victims of the violence. “Let us also remember today before the Lord the hundreds of children, elderly, women, the innocent victims of the unprecedented violence, the injured, those mourning their loved ones and those who have lost their possessions."
Finally, the Pontiff recalled that today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends on January 25 with the Holy Father with celebrating vespers in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls.
"In a special way," he said, "I address the Catholics scattered throughout the world so that, united in prayer, they may not tire of working to overcome the obstacles that still obstruct full communion among all the disciples of Christ. The ecumenical effort is all the more urgent today, in order to give our society, marked by tragic conflicts and lacerating divisions, a sign and an impulse toward reconciliation and peace."