In Mass marking 5th anniversary of trip to island that receives migrants, pope laments the plight of those knocking on the doors of countries with greater wealth
Pope Francis began a homily today in defense of migrants with a quote from Scripture: Amos 8:4, 11, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end … I will send a famine on the land … famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”
With this, the pope opened his sermon during a Mass he celebrated in St. Peter’s to mark the 5th anniversary of his July 8, 2013, visit to the tiny island of Lampedusa. The trip was his first pastoral visit outside of Rome and sent a clear message that this Successor of Peter would be a vocal advocate for migrants and refugees.
Lampedusa, off Sicily, is one of the main entry points into Europe for poor and desperate refugees and migrants from North Africa who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded and unsafe vessels and small boats.
Many thousands have died in the Mediterranean in unsuccessful attempts to make the trip.
Speaking of the verses, the pope said that the Prophet Amos’ warning applies today with the same force. “How many poor are trampled upon today,” he said. “How many little ones are brought to an end. All of them are victims of this ‘throwaway’ culture that has been denounced so many times. And among them, I cannot fail to mention the migrants and refugees who continue knocking at the doors of those nations that enjoy greater wealth.”
Francis recalled that during his trip to Lampedusa, he echoed God’s call to Cain: Where is your brother? “This is not a question directed to others. It is a question directed to me, to you, to each one of us,” he said.
He went on to say that today’s Gospel contains Jesus’ promise, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest,” but in order for that rest to be given and that promise fulfilled, Francis asserted, “he needs us.”
“He needs our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He needs our hands to help them. He needs our voices to denounce the injustices committed in the — sometimes complicit — silence of many. In fact, many silences should be mentioned: the silence of common sense, the silence of ‘it’s always been this way,’ the silence of ‘us’ vs ‘them.’ The Lord needs, above all, our hearts, to manifest the merciful love of God for the last ones, the rejected ones, the abandoned ones, the marginalized.”
Referring to God’s word “I want mercy and not sacrifice,” the Holy Father lamented the “sterile hypocrisy” of those who don’t want to dirty their hands.
“This is a very frequent temptation also in our days,” he said, “that becomes a shutting-out of those who have the right — just as we do — to safety and the conditions of a dignified life, and who build walls — real or imaginary ones — instead of bridges.”
Pope Francis said that the only “sensible response” to the grave situation of migrants affecting so many parts of the planet is a response of “solidarity and mercy” … a “response that doesn’t make too many calculations, but demands an equal distribution of the responsibilities, an honest and sincere analysis of the alternatives and a sensible implementation.”
Just policies are at the service of all people, he added, saying that this kind of government knows how to look out for the good not only of one’s own country, but other countries as well, in our “ever more interconnected world.”
The Holy Father then concluded the homily with some words in Spanish, which he said were directed particularly to the faithful who had come from Spain.
At the Mass were some 200 people, including refugees, linked to the NGO Open Arms, which was founded by a Spaniard, Oscar Camps.
“I want to express my thanks for incarnating today the parable of the Good Samaritan,” he told them, “who stopped to save the life of that poor man beaten by thieves, without asking him where he came from, why he was traveling, or if he had documents … He simply decided to become involved and save his life.”
Then speaking to those who had been rescued, the pope reiterated his “solidarity and encouragement,” saying that he understands well the “tragedies from which you are escaping.”
“I ask that you continue to be witnesses of hope in a world ever more worried about the present, with very little vision of the future and reluctant to share, and with your respect for the culture and the laws of the countries that welcome you, that you build together a path of integration.”