Pope to migrants: Do not be robbed of hope, joy of living

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Welcoming thousands of migrants and refugees to
the Vatican for their own Year of Mercy celebration, Pope Francis urged them to
resist everything that would rob them of hope and joy.

“Each of you is the bearer of a history, culture and precious
values and, unfortunately, also often of experiences of poverty, oppression and
fear,” the pope said Jan. 17. But gathering in St. Peter’s Square for the
Holy Year “is a sign of hope in God. Don’t allow yourselves to be robbed
of hope and the joy of living, which spring from the experience of divine
mercy, also thanks
to the people who welcomed and helped you.”

The pope prayed that passing through the Holy Door
and attending a special jubilee Mass “will fill your hearts with peace.” He also thanked the inmates of a maximum security prison
in Milan who prepared the hosts consecrated at the Mass.

According to the
Italian news agency, ANSA, an estimated 7,000 migrants from 30 countries were
present. The group passed through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, following a
9-foot tall, 3-foot wide wooden cross made out of the wreckage of boats
carrying migrants from northern Africa to Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal
Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical
Council for Migrants and Travelers, who said in his homily that the cross was
“an expressive symbol” of the tragic circumstances facing migrants
who risk their lives seeking a better future.

World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, was “a fitting occasion to remember
that the church has
always contemplated in migrants the image of Christ. Moreover, in the Year of
Mercy, we are challenged to rediscover the works of mercy where, among the
corporal works, there is the call to welcome the stranger.”

The presence of migrants is a visible sign of the universality of the church and the integration of newcomers is
not about “assimilation”
but an opportunity to recognize “the cultural patrimony of migrants”
for the good of the universal church.

“Everyone has something new and beautiful to contribute, but the
source and steward is the Spirit,” he said. “No one should feel
superior to the other, but all must realize the need to collaborate and
contribute to the good of the sole family of God.”

Recalling Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Migrants and
Refugees, Cardinal Veglio compared the plight of migrants to the Holy Family
exiled in Egypt, which serves as a reminder that the “welcoming of the
stranger means welcoming God himself.”

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