Pope on World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Sin is allowing fear to feed hatred
The pope celebrated Mass on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica was attended by hundreds of emigrants who have lived in Italy for years and whom the pope warmly greeted.
In his homily, Pope Francis asked people to overcome their fear of foreigners. He explained that for the host communities, the migrant has to be seen as an asset to society and he invited the communities to set aside preconceived ideas.
“It is an invitation to overcome our fears, so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her. It is an invitation which offers the opportunity to draw near to the other and see where and how he or she lives.”
The pope is consciously aware of the reality of migration. For that reason, he assured that it is not easy for migrants to integrate in a new culture, nor for the locals to welcome them.
“So, oftentimes, we renounce the encounter with others and we build barriers to protect ourselves. Local communities are sometimes afraid that the new arrivals will disturb the established order, will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up.”
Although Pope Francis acknowledged that being afraid is understandable, at the same time, he asked people not to direct that feeling of fear toward migrants.
“It’s not a sin to have doubts or fears. The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection. The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, those who are different, the neighbor, when this is, in fact, a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”
Later, when praying the Angelus, the pope reiterated this message and recalled that migrating is a sign of the times. He explained that each foreigner is an opportunity to have an encounter with Christ.
He also made an announcement. Starting next year, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be held on the second week of September instead of being held in January.