By Vatican News
“Free from fear”: that is the theme of a 3-day meeting organized by the Migrantes Foundation, Italian Caritas, and the Jesuit-run Astalli Center for Refugees, to discuss reception structures for migrants.
The meeting is being held at the Fraterna Domus, a Welcome and Retreat Center near the town of Sacrofano, about 20 kilometers outside Rome. Consistent with his commitment to welcoming migrants, Pope Francis chose to open the meeting on Friday afternoon by celebrating Mass at the Fraterna Domus Center.
Do not be afraid
In his homily, the Pope focused on the readings chosen for the celebration, which he summed up in a single sentence: "Do not be afraid".
Pope Francis used the image of the Israelites at the Red Sea, in the Book of Exodus, to illustrate how we are “called to look beyond the adversities of the moment, to overcome fear and to place full trust in the saving and mysterious action of the Lord”.
Free from fear
Turning to the Gospel of St Matthew, the Pope described the disciples crying out in fear at the sight of Jesus walking on the waters, and His response to them: "Courage, it is I, do not be afraid”. Reminding his listeners that "Free from fear" is the theme chosen for this meeting, Pope Francis said it is “through these biblical episodes that the Lord speaks to us today and asks us to let Him free us from our fears”.
Fear of others
“Faced with the wickedness and ugliness of our time”, said Pope Francis, we too, “are tempted to abandon our dream of freedom”. We are tempted to “shut ourselves off within ourselves”, he said, “in our fragile human security…in our reassuring routine”.
The Pope called this retreat into oneself, “a sign of defeat”, one that increases our fear of "others", foreigners, outcasts and strangers. “This is particularly evident today”, he continued, with the arrival of migrants and refugees “who knock on our door in search of protection, security and a better future”.
Fear is legitimate
While recognizing that fear is legitimate, Pope Francis said it can lead us to “give up encountering others and to raise barriers to defend ourselves". Instead, he continued, we are called to overcome our fear, knowing “the Lord does not abandon His people”. The encounter with the other”, said the Pope, “is also an encounter with Christ…even if our eyes have difficulty recognizing Him”. He is the one, said Pope Francis, “with ragged clothes, dirty feet, agonized faces, sore bodies, unable to speak our language”.
The Pope concluded his homily by suggesting we should “begin to thank those who give us the opportunity of this meeting, that is, the ‘others’ who knock at our door, and offer us the possibility of overcoming our fears, meeting, welcoming and assisting Jesus”.
And those “who have had the strength to let themselves be freed from fear”, he said, “need to help others do the same”, so they too can prepare themselves for their own encounter with Christ.