In honor of the upcoming World Migration Day, Pope Francis said that the improvement of society demands the end of common prejudices against migrants and refugees.
“In considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration.”
The message of Pope Francis was read aloud during a Sept. 24 press conference in honor of World Migration Day, which will take place on Jan. 19, 2014.
In his address, the Pope emphasized the need to build a better world through “efforts to provide dignified living conditions for everyone, at finding just responses to the needs of individuals and families, and at ensuring that God's gift of creation is respected, safeguarded and cultivated.”
“Our hearts do desire something 'more.' Beyond greater knowledge or possessions, they want to “be” more,” he said. “Development cannot be reduced to economic growth alone, often attained without a thought for the poor and the vulnerable.”
The pontiff noted the importance of fighting the “scandal of poverty,” warning that “Violence, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms, whether of individuals or of groups,” are some of the chief elements of poverty which need to be overcome.
Amid the necessity for cooperation among societies in order to create peace, justice and security, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of deconstructing common stereotypes which are held against many who flee their homelands.
“Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility,” he said.
“There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase.”
It is those in the field of “communication media,” he said, who have the greatest responsibility “to break down stereotypes and to offer correct information in reporting the errors of a few as well as the honesty, rectitude and goodness of the majority.”
The Pope likened the migrant to the image of the Holy Family, who also left their home and faced rejection in a foreign land, saying that “threatened by Herod’s lust for power, they were forced to take flight and seek refuge in Egypt.”
“But the maternal heart of Mary and the compassionate heart of Joseph, the Protector of the Holy Family, never doubted that God would always be with them. Through their intercession, may that same firm certainty dwell in the heart of every migrant and refugee.”
The Church, he recalled, who is called to follow Christ’s commandment to “go and make disciples of all nations,” is also called to embrace and proclaim the gospel to all peoples, because “the face of each person bears the mark of the face of Christ.”
“Here we find the deepest foundation of the dignity of the human person, which must always be respected and safeguarded.”
It is being created in God’s image and likeness that grounds personal dignity, said the pontiff, rather than external circumstances such as productivity, social class, ethnic or religious belonging, or “the criteria of efficiency.”
“Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”
The situation of the migrant, urged the Pope, is for us “an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world and a more open and evangelical Christian community.”
The Holy Father also expressed that the reality of migrants poses the possibility and opportunity for evangelization and for “the growth of a new humanity.”
Pope Francis ended his message speaking directly to migrants themselves, encouraging them to “Never lose the hope that you too are facing a more secure future, that on your journey you will encounter an outstretched hand, and that you can experience fraternal solidarity and the warmth of friendship.”