Like Mother Cabrini, treat migrants with charity and justice, Pope says

Frances Xavier Cabrini public domain CNA St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (public domain)

Pope Francis praised St. Frances Cabrini in the preface to a book about her life for her foresight in addressing the needs of migrants, saying she's an example of how to treat people with both charity and justice.

The saint combined "great charity with a prophetic spirit," the Pope noted. "Frances Cabrini, precisely for this reason, is very present today and teaches us the way to deal with the momentous phenomenon of migration by combining charity and justice."

Not only did she realize that mass migration "was not a temporary phenomenon," he continued, she also saw "the emergence of a new historical era" in which modern transport would allow easier movement of large populations.

"Frances understood that modernity would be marked by these immense migrations and uprooted human beings, in a crisis of identity, often desperate and lacking resources to face the society in which they would have to enter," he said.

In the face of this crisis, she established hospitals, convents, and schools for poor Italian immigrants to the US, to help them learn the rules and laws of their new society while retaining their dignity and their religious roots.

"These were the goals that she wanted to achieve for all migrants," Pope Francis said. "Goals that are still valid today, and which pass through the recognition and respect of one's own and others' religious roots."

Now the sisters in her religious order have continued her work, even if the country of origin of immigrants to the U.S. has changed, he pointed out.

This December marks the 100th anniversary of the death of St. Frances Cabrini.

Pope Francis wrote the preface to a new edition of a Cabrini biography called Tra terra e cielo ("Between heaven and earth"), issued for the centennial of her death.

Pope Francis frequently invokes the 20th century saint in his speeches for her example of how to welcome and care for migrants while also helping them integrate with the culture of their new country.

He most recently spoke about her legacy and its relevance in a September letter to the order she founded, the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, saying the centennial of her death is "one of the main events marking the journey of the Church."

"Both because of the greatness of the figure commemorated and because of the contemporary nature of her charism and message, not just for the ecclesial community but for society as a whole."

With the "inevitable tensions" caused by the high levels of migration around the world today, Mother Cabrini becomes a contemporary figure, he continued.

An Italian missionary, St. Frances Cabrini died Dec. 22, 1917 after spending much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.

She spent nearly 30 years traveling back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean as well as around the United States setting up orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for the often marginalized Italian immigrants. Her feast is celebrated Nov. 13.

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