By Vatican News staff reporter
“I always look with gratitude at the efforts of those who work for migrants,” Pope Francis said on Sunday following the recitation of the Angelus. “I thank all of them for what they do for migrants.”
The Holy Father noted in particular the decision by civil authorities in Colombia last week to implement a temporary protection statute that grants legal status to more than one million Venezuelans who are currently in the country after having fled social troubles in their homeland.
“This is not being done by a very rich, overly-developed country,” but by a nation with its own problems in terms of finances, development, poverty, and almost 70 years of guerrilla warfare. In the face of huge numbers of migrants, however, the nation “had the courage to look at those migrants and make this statute,” the Pope said, adding, “Thank you, Colombia, thank you!”
Patrons of Europe
Pope Francis also noted the feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius on Sunday. Recognised as evangelizers of the Slavic peoples, the two holy brothers were proclaimed co-patrons of Europe (together with St Benedict of Nursia) by Pope St John Paul II in 1980.
“I greet with affection all the communities living in the territories evangelized by the sainted brothers,” the Pope said. “May their intercession help us to find new ways to communicate the Gospel… and may their intercession lead to an increase among the Christian churches of the desire to journey toward full unity, while respecting differences.”
The Holy Father added, “I cannot fail today, St Valentine’s Day, to think about and address my best wishes to engaged couples and those who are in love.” He said, “I accompany them with my prayers and I bless them.”
The beginning of Lent
Looking ahead to the penitential season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, 17 February, Pope Francis said, “It will be a favourable time to give a sense of faith and hope to the crisis we are going through.”
He concluded his greetings by recalling three words he emphasized in his explanation of Sunday’s Gospel reading: “I don’t want to forget the three words that help us understand God’s ‘style’: closeness, compassion, tenderness.” Pope Francis invited the faithful to say them together, before wishing them a happy Sunday.