By Hannah Brockhaus
Pope Francis called Monday for an end to the rhetoric which views migrants as something ‘other,’ saying they are human beings and among those Christ has commanded his disciples to love and assist.
“They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!” he said July 8. “’This is not just about migrants,’ in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”
In a homily, the pope said his thoughts “go out to those ‘least ones’ who daily cry out to the Lord, asking to be freed from the evils that afflict them.”
“These least ones are abandoned and cheated into dying in the desert; these least ones are tortured, abused and violated in detention camps; these least ones face the waves of an unforgiving sea; these least ones are left in reception camps too long for them to be called temporary,” he stated.
“In the spirit of the Beatitudes we are called to comfort them in their affliction and offer them mercy,” he urged, “to sate their hunger and thirst for justice; to let them experience God’s caring fatherliness; to show them the way to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
He explained that Jesus taught his disciples the need for a “preferential option for the least,” who should be given “the front row in the exercise of charity.”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica July 8 to mark the 6th anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa, a small Italian island 90 miles off the coast of Tunisia.
Because of its location, Lampedusa has been the first port of entry for many African migrants coming to Europe, thousands of whom have tried to reach the island by boat in recent decades –including more than 20,000 who have died at sea in the attempt.
During his 2013 visit to the island, Pope Francis said these deaths occur “all too frequently” and that they “come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart.”
“I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated,” he said July 8, 2013.
At Monday’s Mass, Francis reflected on trust in God above all else, noting that the security offered by the world “has little worth.”
God “is our refuge and our strength, our shield and our armor, our anchor in times of trial,” he said.
“God alone opens up heaven for those who live on earth,” he said, adding that “Only God saves.”
Pope Francis noted the day’s first reading from Genesis, when Jacob lays down to rest, and in his dream sees a ladder reaching up to heaven with God’s messengers going up and down it.
The image of Jacob’s ladder recalls that in Jesus Christ the connection between heaven and earth “is guaranteed and is accessible to all,” he said.
“Yet climbing the steps of this ladder requires commitment, effort and grace. The weakest and most vulnerable must be helped,” he continued, adding that it is the role of Catholics to take “under our wings the little ones, the lame, the sick, those excluded.”
He concluded his homily by thanking those who assist migrants for their “beautiful example of humanity, gratitude and solidarity,” stating that “this is a tremendous responsibility, from which no one is exempt if we wish to fulfil the mission of salvation and liberation