By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) —
Refugees, often perceived by society as an added cost or a problem, are a gift
and a reflection of the face of God, Pope Francis said.
People who escape oppression,
war, pollution or “the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources are a
brother and sister with whom to share bread, home and life,” he said in a
video message to
the Centro Astalli, the Jesuit
Refugee Service center in Rome.
are witnesses of how our clement and merciful God can transform the evil and injustice you have
suffered into a good for all,” he said.
pope’s message to
refugees and volunteers April 19 marked the 35th anniversary of the center’s founding by Father
Pedro Arrupe, superior of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983.
Francis said the center’s
work in assisting refugees is a courageous form of following Jesus’ words,
“For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
refugee “who knocks on our doors bears the face of God, the flesh of
Christ,” he said. “Your experience of pain and of hope reminds us
that we are all foreigners and pilgrims on this earth, welcomed by someone with generosity
and without reward.”
pope asked forgiveness from the refugees for society’s indifference toward
their plight out of fear “for the change of life and mentality that your
he added, the presence of
refugees can serve as bridge to unite distant lands as well as different
cultures and religions, allowing
people to “rediscover our common humanity.”
welcoming refugees, the pope said, the Centro Astalli has continued Father
Arrupe’s “prophetic vision,” and he thanked them for showing that in walking
together, “the path becomes less frightening.”
“Thirty-five years are
only the beginning of a path that becomes more necessary, the only path for a
reconciled coexistence,” he said. “May you always be witnesses of the
beauty of encounter; help our society listen to the voice of refugees.”
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