By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) — With so much suffering, poverty and
exploitation in the world, missionary work must also include reaching out to
people whose hearts are closed to receiving immigrants and refugees, Pope
Francis told Jesuits in Myanmar.
“Unfortunately, in Europe there are countries that
have chosen to close their borders. The most painful thing is that to take such
a decision they had to close their hearts,” he said during a private
audience Nov. 29 in the chapel of the archbishop’s house in Yangon.
“Our missionary work must also reach those hearts
that are closed to the reception of others,” he told 31 Jesuits from
different parts of Asia and Australia, who are based in Myanmar.
The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica,
published a transcript Dec. 14 from the private meeting in Myanmar and the
pope’s private meeting Dec. 1 at the apostolic nunciature in Dhaka with Jesuits
based in Bangladesh.
In both meetings, the pope listened to and answered their
comments, concerns and questions, and the journal provided an English
translation of the original Spanish remarks.
A Jesuit’s mission is to be close to the people,
especially those who are suffering and forgotten because “to see them is
to see Christ suffering and crucified,” he said in his meeting in Myanmar.
His approach, he said, is to try to visit these places
and to “speak clearly, especially with countries that have closed their
“It is a serious issue,” he said, commenting on
how that evening, they all would be sitting down to a full meal, including
dessert, while many refugees will “have a piece of bread for dinner.”
He recalled visiting the refugees in Lesbos, Greece, and
how the children he was greeting were torn between shaking his hand and reaching
for candy that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was pulling out of his pockets.
“With one hand, they greeted me with the other, they
grabbed the candy. I thought maybe it was the only sweet they had eaten for
The situation of many of the refugees and stories they
have told him have “helped me to cry a lot before God,” he said,
particularly when a Muslim man recounted how terrorists slit the throat of his
Christian wife right before his eyes when she refused to take off the cross she
“These things must be seen and must be told,”
he said, because news of what is happening does not reach most people, and
“we are obliged to report and make public these human tragedies that some
try to silence.”
The Jesuits he met in Bangladesh thanked him for talking
about the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority being pushed from Myanmar’s
Rakhine state and seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
“Jesus Christ today is called Rohingya,” as
these people are their brothers and sisters, the pope told the Jesuits.
Just as St. Peter Claver ministered in the 17th century to
slaves subjected to horrible conditions, such shameful conditions people endure
still persist, he said.
“Today, there is much discussion about how to save
the banks. The problem is the salvation of the banks. But who saves the dignity
of men and women today?”
“Nobody cares about people in ruins any longer. The
devil manages to do this in today’s world. If we had a little sense of reality,
this should scandalize us.”
“The impudence of our world is such that the only
solution is to pray and ask for the grace of tears,” he said.
Meeting the Rohingya refugees that same day at the
archbishop’s residence in Dhaka, he added, made him feel ashamed. “I felt
ashamed of myself, for the whole world!”
When asked “why such attention” for the small
Catholic community in Bangladesh when he elevated their archbishop in Dhaka to
the rank of cardinal, Pope Francis said that in naming cardinals, he looks to
the “small churches, those that grow in the peripheries, at the
It’s not meant to give them “consolation,” but
is “to launch a clear message: the small churches that grow in the
periphery and are without ancient Catholic traditions today must speak to the
universal church, to the whole church. I clearly feel that they have something
to teach us.”
– – –
Editors: The full text in English can be found online at:
– – –
Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.