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Pope Francis Reaches Across the Border

AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS
Pope Francis prays next to the US border before celebrating mass at the Ciudad Juarez fairgrounds on February 17, 2016. Throngs gathered at Mexico's border with the United States on Wednesday for a huge mass with Pope Francis highlighting the plight of migrants -- a hot-button issue on the US presidential campaign trail.. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS
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In Ciudad Juarez, Pontiff calls for mercy for migrants

Before departing for Rome at the end of a five-day visit to Mexico, Pope Francis sent greetings across the border to thousands of people gathered in El Paso, Texas.

Thousands of Catholics on the U.S. side who could not — or decided not to — cross the border to see Pope Francis filled the University of Texas at El Paso’s Sun Bowl football stadium and were able to watch the Mass on closed-circuit television.

“With the help of technology, we can pray, sing and celebrate together the merciful love that God gives us and that no border can prevent us from sharing,” the pope said. “Thank you, brothers and sisters in El Paso, for making us feel as one family and one, the same, Christian community.”

Moments before celebrating Mass on the Ciudad Juárez Fairgrounds, the pope blessed a cross close to the international border and those gathered across the Rio Bravo.

The large cross bore not a corpus of the crucified Christ but a silhouette of the Holy Family making its way to Bethlehem — an apparent symbol of the plight of immigrants. American road signs and soldiers were visible through the fence, and a giant U.S. flag hung from a crane fluttered in the soft breeze.

In his homily, the pope acknowledged the presence in the area of “thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, not forgetting the many Mexicans who also seek to pass over ‘to the other side.’

“Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted — so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human beings,” he charged. “We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis that in recent years has meant migration for thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometers through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones. The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty, they must also endure these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are ‘cannon fodder,’ persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs, and what about the many women whose lives have been unjustly torn apart?”

Referring to the day’s first reading, about the prophet Jonah’s call to the people of Nineveh to repent, the pope called on listeners to “ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, [to] let us ask him to give us open hearts like the Ninevites, open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. No more death! No more exploitation! There is still time to change, there is still a way out and a chance, time to implore the mercy of God.”

Francis also acknowledge the efforts of “countless civil organizations working to support the rights of migrants,” as well as “so many men and women religious, priests and lay people in accompanying migrants and in defending life.

“They are on the front lines, often risking their own lives,” he told the 200,000 Massgoers before him. “By their very lives they are prophets of mercy; they are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens its arms and sustains.”

 

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