Vatican: Pope Francis appeals for hospitality and justice during visit to Jesuit Refugee ServiceMonday, October 7th, 2013
On September 2013, after his visit to Lampedusa, Pope Francis again made a call in favour of welcoming refugees at a visit to the soup kitchen of Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service Italy).
Refugees endure terrible journeys fleeing violence and conflict in their countries of origin in the hope they will be able to offer a better life to their children, the Pope told those gathered in the Chiesa del Gesù, a Jesuit church in the centre of Rome where the headquarters of JRS Italy is located.
Speaking of the richness of refugee populations from all over the world, of so many different religions, cultures and beliefs, he emphasised the wealth of diversity refugees bring to their host communities.
“We must not be afraid of difference! Fraternity makes us discover that it is richness, a gift for all! Long live fraternity!”
Rather than find opportunities to share their diverse cultures, refugees around the world are often “forced to live in difficult, sometimes degrading, situations, without the possibility of building a life in dignity, of thinking of a new future!”
However, the Pope continued, “the poor are also privileged teachers of our knowledge of God; their fragility and simplicity will unmask our egoisms, our false securities, our pretences of self-sufficiency…”.
Welcoming the historic visit of Pope Francis to refugees, JRS International Director, Peter Balleis SJ, said the Pontiff’s words touched the hearts of staff and volunteers around the world.
“The memory of this special day will give great us joy and help us serve refugees with greater commitment and dedication. His message goes to the heart of our organisation’s work: hospitality.
“The work of JRS Italy is a microcosm of our work around the world where teams this year will provide services to more than 800,000 people, and where they find themselves delivering emergency assistance to thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands in situations like Syria. Just as discrimination and marginalisation hinder the ability of refugees to access public services and find employment in Rome, the same is true in other urban areas. We have seen how in cities as diverse as Bangkok, Bogota and Nairobi hospitality strengthens community solidarity to the benefit of all”, said Fr Balleis.
“For us hospitality is core to everything we do in our accompaniment, service and advocacy. It is about how we welcome the refugee as a human person. From this encounter we understand how best to serve them. It is by developing relationships with refugees that we are able to undertake advocacy in defence of their rights”.
But hospitality in itself is not sufficient, Pope Francis said.
“It’s not enough to give a sandwich if it isn’t accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn’t enough. True mercy, which God gives and teaches us, calls for justice, for a way in which the poor can find a way out of poverty.”
This mission for the poor, this promotion of human rights, the Pope added, should not only be entrusted only to specialists, but should also mobilise members of the church and “focus the attention of all the pastoral work, of the formation of future priests and other religious, of the normal commitment of all parishes, movements and ecclesial groups”.
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