In his message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, released May 11, Pope Francis recognized the migratory flows of our times as “the expression of a complex and varied phenomenon” that requires analysis of the different stages, including the departure, arrival, and the possibility of returning to one’s homeland.
The Church observes the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on the last Sunday of September, which this year falls on Sept. 24. This year’s theme is “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay.”
Pope Francis pointed out that the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt was not a free decision. This is the case with many migrants. He added that persecutions, wars, atmospheric phenomena, and extreme poverty are some of the main causes of forced migrations today.
“Conflicts, natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave,” he said.
“Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each,” he expressed. “This commitment begins with asking what we can do, but also what we need to stop doing. We need to make every effort to halt the arms race, economic colonialism, the plundering of other people’s resources, and the devastation of our common home.”
In order to make migration a truly free choice, “efforts must be made to ensure to everyone an equal share in the common good, respect for his or her fundamental rights, and access to an integral human development,” the pope emphasized.
He encouraged countries and the international community to work together to ensure that all people “enjoy the right not to be forced to emigrate” and are able to live in peace within one’s own country.
“This right has yet to be codified, but it is one of fundamental importance, and its protection must be seen as a shared responsibility on the part of all states with respect to a common good that transcends national borders,” Pope Francis added.
“Indeed, since the world’s resources are not unlimited, the development of the economically poorer countries depends on the capacity for sharing that we can manage to generate among all countries. Until this right is guaranteed — and here we are speaking of a long process — many people will still have to emigrate in order to seek a better life.”
Pope Francis reminded the faithful to not only see a migrant as a “brother or sister in difficulty but Christ himself, who knocks at our door” and to “show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant” by building bridges and not walls.
“In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone,” he said.
The Holy Father ended with a prayer:
God, Father almighty,
grant us the grace to work tirelessly
for justice, solidarity, and peace,
so that all your children may enjoy
the freedom to choose whether to migrate or to stay.
Grant us the courage to denounce
all the horrors of our world
and to combat every injustice
that mars the beauty of your children
and the harmony of our common home.
Sustain us by the power of your Spirit,
so that we can reflect your tender love
to every migrant whom you place in our path,
and to spread in hearts and in every situation
the culture of encounter and of care.