By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Setting the scene for the message for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis explained that in the Encyclical Fratelli tutti, he expressed a concern and a hope that once this health crisis passes, “we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’, but only ‘us’.”
For this reason, said the Pope, “I have wished to devote the Message for this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the theme, Towards An Ever Wider “We”, in order to indicate a clear horizon for our common journey in this world.”
Annually, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees is the last Sunday of September. It is a day set aside to express concern and show solidarity for different vulnerable people on the move; to pray for them as they face many challenges and increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers. This year, it will be commemorated on 26 September.
Pope Francis, considering the history of this “we,” notes that the horizon is “already present in God’s creative plan,” because God created humankind – male and female – in His image, blessed them, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1: 27 – 28). Thus, “God created us male and female, different yet complementary, in order to form a 'we' destined to become ever more numerous in the succession of generations. God created us in his image, in the image of His own triune being, a communion in diversity.”
However, when we, in disobedience, turned away from God, He wished to offer us a path of reconciliation “not as individuals but as a people, a 'we', meant to embrace the entire human family, without exception.”
“Salvation history thus has a 'we' in its beginning and a 'we' at its end, and at its centre the mystery of Christ, who died and rose so 'that they may all be one',” Pope Francis said.
“We” are all in the same boat
The Holy Father then highlighted that in our present time, this “we”, willed by God, is “broken and fragmented, wounded and disfigured,” as is evident in moments of great crisis like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Our “we,” - both in the wider world and within the Church – noted the Pope, “is crumbling and cracking due to myopic and aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism,” with the highest price paid by “those who most easily become viewed as others,” including foreigners, migrants, the marginalized, and those living on the existential peripheries.
To remedy this, Pope Francis stresses that “we are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single 'we', encompassing all of humanity.” He therefore appeals to the Catholic faithful, and to all the men and women of our world, “to advance together towards an ever wider ‘we’.”
A more “catholic” Church
Further addressing all members of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis goes on to emphasize the importance of the commitment to “becoming ever more faithful to our being “catholic,” noting, as St. Paul reminded the community in Ephesus, that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4: 4 – 5).
He added that the Church’s universality must be embraced and expressed in every age “according to the will and grace of the Lord” as “the Holy Spirit enables us to embrace everyone, to build communion in diversity, to unify differences without imposing a depersonalized uniformity.” At the same time, the Catholic faithful are to work, each in their community, to make the Church become be more inclusive.
“All the baptized, wherever they find themselves, are by right members of both their local ecclesial community and the one Church, dwellers in one home and part of one family,” Pope Francis said, adding that in the encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another. He also underlined the Church’s call to go out into the streets of every existential periphery, including the migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking.
A more inclusive world
“I also make this appeal to journey together towards an ever wider “we” to all men and women, for the sake of renewing the human family, building together a future of justice and peace, and ensuring that no one is left behind,” Pope Francis said.
He pointed out that we must even now learn to live together in harmony and peace, especially so that “our societies will have a colorful future, enriched by diversity and cultural exchanges,” like the scene on the day of Pentecost when people from different places – Parthians, Medes, Elamites…Jews and proselytes, heard the Apostles speaking of God’s deeds of power in their own languages.
This, he notes, “is the ideal of the new Jerusalem, where all peoples are united in peace and harmony, celebrating the goodness of God and the wonders of creation.” To achieve this, however, “we must make every effort to break down the walls that separate us and, in acknowledging our profound interconnection, build bridges that foster a culture of encounter.”
Preserving and making creation more beautiful
Inviting everyone to “make good use of the gifts that the Lord has entrusted to us to preserve and make his creation even more beautiful,” Pope Francis reminded all that “the Lord will also demand of us an account of our work,” in the manner of the nobleman in the Gospel of Luke who summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds, instructing them to do business with it until he returns (Lk 19: 12 -13).
In order to ensure the proper care of our common home, “we must become a ‘we’ that is ever wider and more co-responsible, in the profound conviction that whatever good is done in our world is done for present and future generations,” he stressed.
“Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer, even as we work towards a more sustainable, balanced and inclusive development,” the Pope stated. “A commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”
Concluding, Pope Francis recalled the prophet Joel’s prediction that the messianic future would be a time of dreams and visions inspired by the Spirit: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28).
We are, therefore, "called to dream together, fearlessly, as a single human family, as companions on the same journey, as sons and daughters of the same earth that is our common home, sisters and brothers all.”