The following article, Pope Francis Calls For Compassion In Prayer Vigil For Migrants And Refugees, was first published on Flag And Cross.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis led a prayer vigil at the Vatican on Thursday to recall the plight of migrants and refugees, saying everyone is “called to be neighbors” and to “save their lives, to heal their wounds and to soothe their pain.”
The prayer service took place during the Synod on Synodality — a gathering of bishops and laypeople taking place in Rome this month — and comes as large numbers of people in recent years have been forced to flee the Global South to places like the United States and Europe.
“All of us must strive to make the road safer,” saidthe pope, “so that today’s travelers do not fall victim to bandits … we need to multiply our efforts to combat the criminal networks that exploit the hopes and dreams of migrants.”
The evening prayer service took place around a life-size sculpture in St. Peter’s Square known as “Angels Unawares,” a creation by Timothy Schmalz. The sculpture features a bronze boat filled with 140 people from various periods in history.
Recalling the theme of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, the head of the Catholic church said “the road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho was not a safe route, just as today the many migration routes that traverse deserts, forests, rivers and seas are not safe.
“How many of our brothers and sisters find themselves today in the same condition as the traveler in the parable? How many are robbed, stripped and beaten along the way?”
As a result, Francis called for immigration reform that features a heavy dose of compassion. He said nations needed to enact policies that increases legal ways for migration to take place.
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to draw close to all migrants and refugees who knock at our door, because today ‘anyone who is neither a robber nor a passer-by is either injured himself or bearing an injured person on his shoulders,’” said the Pope.
Pope Francis has spoken out on this issue many times before. Last month during a trip to France, he said the “fanaticism of indifference” that greets migrants seeking a better life is a problem in Europe.
The pope’s message puts him at odds with many right-wing governments who favor closing borders and deporting those seeking political asylum.
Just as an influx of migrants from Africa continues to arrive in Europe by boat, Pope Francis 30-minute vigil did not mention any specific places where immigration was becoming an issue.
The migrant crisis is not limited to any one part of the world. Many are leaving Ukraine due to the Russian invasion, Central Americans are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and, most recently, Gaza residents are trying to go to neighboring Egypt after the Hamas attack on Israel led the Jewish state to retaliate.
In 2013, Francis famously visited the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa — closer to the shores of North African than Italy — where many refugees make landfall. Many have drowned making the dangerous crossing. Over 14,000 people have died or gone missing while making the crossing between Libya and Tunisia to Italy since 2014, according to the U.N.-based International Organization for Migration.
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty of our world, of our own hearts, and of all those who in anonymity make social and economic decisions which open the door to tragic situations like this,” he said at the time. “Has anyone wept? Today has anyone wept in our world?”
On the 10th anniversary of that visit this past July, the pope reaffirmed his commitment to the plight of migrants.
“Ten years have passed since the visit I wanted to carry out to the communities of Lampedusa in order to show my support and fatherly closeness to those who have arrived on your shores after painful vicissitudes, at the mercy of the sea,” he said.
Produced in association with Religion Unplugged
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