By Vatican News staff writer
It’s been 40 years since the Jesuit Refugee Service began its mission to help the many men, women and children who seek refuge and assistance.
In a letter to mark four decades of service, Pope Francis recalled its founder, the Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who, he said, is an example of “this intimately Christian and Ignatian desire to care for the well-being of all those who find themselves in a state of deep despair.”
Father Aruppe, wrote the Pope, transformed his dismay at the plight of the suffering “into a deeply practical attention to their physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.”
JRS past and present
The work of JRS has taken its cue from its Christian ethos, from its beginnings with the Vietnamese boat people in the 1980s up to the present day with the coronavirus pandemic, which has shown how the entire human family is "in the same boat," finding itself faced with unprecedented economic and social challenges, the Pope said.
He also underlined, “Nowadays too many people in the world are forced to cling to barges in an attempt to seek refuge from the viruses of injustice, violence, and war.”
In light of these grave inequalities, Pope Francis said, JRS has a crucial role to play in raising awareness of the reality facing refugees and displaced persons.
“It is your vital duty to reach out the hand of friendship to those who are alone, separated by their families, or abandoned, accompanying them and strengthening their voice, and above all by ensuring that they have the opportunity to grow through your education and development,” the Pope wrote.
Culture of encounter
He also noted that JRS’ witness of God's love in serving refugees and migrants is "fundamental to building a ‘culture of encounter’ that alone lays the foundations for an authentic and lasting solidarity for the good of the human family."
Looking to the future, the Pope expressed the hope that there would be “no setbacks or challenges, personal or institutional,” that may distract or discourage their mission to accompany those in need and ensure their rights are defended.
In conclusion, the Pope sent his best wishes to the Centro Astalli in Rome (the Italian headquarters of JRS in Italy) and to all JRS staff and volunteers around the world.