In emotional address, Vatican official says that when he visits refugee camps, he finds a part of himself.
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“The migrant you reject could be the grandfather of a future cardinal!”
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, offered this reflection recently, during a conference-report on a program of aid to migrants.
Cardinal Tagle was referring to his own history.
“These refugees are taking me back to my roots,” he said, his voice charged with emotion. He continued with tears in his eyes: “In them I saw my grandfather who was born in China, but was forced to leave his native land for the Philippines with his uncle, while he was still a child, looking for a better future.”
During the June 15 event, Cardinal Tagle spoke about how much an encounter with migrants helps us grow in faith and understanding of our neighbor.
As director of the office in charge of evangelization, Cardinal Tagle visits refugee camps all around the world – Greece, Lebanon, Bangladesh. However, he affirms that the issue of migrants arises wherever we are.
For his part, he says, he’s found a part of himself in these meetings.
“Incredible things” always happen during meetings with migrants, says the cardinal — who some suspect could be a future pope.
Cardinal Tagle recounted how one year, in his former Archdiocese of Manila, he celebrated an International Migrants Day on Holy Thursday. He decided to include these migrant men and women – some of whom were not Christian – in the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet, an optional part of the liturgy on this day of Holy Week.
Among them was a pregnant Eritrean woman, he explained. “The parishioners saw her arrive — tall, with her very elegant gait — and wondered who she was,” said the cardinal. He explained that she was from Eritrea, and they “were amazed because they did not even know the existence of this country.” They wondered how a person from such a distant land could have landed in the Philippines.
This is the benefit of making migrants visible, concludes Cardinal Tagle. It makes people “curious” and then “open.” The Eritrean woman, he reported, subsequently obtained a scholarship to train, and was able to bring her mother to help her.
A beautiful God
The cardinal also recounted how migrants are greatly affected by the support provided to them by members of the Catholic Church all over the world.
In every camp the Filipino prelate visited, he said he was asked, “Why are you helping us?” His answer, he assured, was always the same: “Because I believe in a God who tells me to love you.”
A reaction to this response, he said, with his eyes again bathed in tears, particularly marked him. It came from a little girl in a camp in Nepal, who told him: “Your God is beautiful!”