St Peter's Square
Sunday, 18 January 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Since the Pauline Year is being celebrated this year, thinking precisely of St Paul as the great itinerant missionary of the Gospel, I have chosen the theme: "St Paul migrant, "Apostle of the peoples'". Saul this was his Hebrew name was born into a family of Jews that had emigrated to Tarsus, an important city in Cilicia, and he grew up with three cultures Hebrew, Hellenistic and Roman and a cosmopolitan mentality. When he converted from being a persecutor of Christians to an apostle of the Gospel, Paul became an "ambassador" of the Risen Christ to make him known to all, in the conviction that in him all peoples are called to form the great family of God's children.
This is also the Church's mission, particularly in our time of globalization. As Christians, we cannot fail to feel the need to transmit the message of the love of Jesus, especially to those who do not know him, or rather who are in difficult or grevious situations. Today I am thinking of migrants in particular. Their actual situation is undoubtedly varied: in some cases, thank God, it is serene and well integrated; at other times, unfortunately, it is painful, difficult and sometimes even dramatic. I would like to assure you that the Christian community looks at each person and each family with attention, and asks St Paul for the strength for a renewed effort to favour peaceful coexistence among men and women of different races, cultures and religions in every part of the world. The Apostle tells us what the secret of his new life was: "I", he writes, "have been grasped by Christ Jesus" (Phil 3: 12); and he adds: "Be imitators of me" (Phil 3: 17). Yes, each one of us, according to his/her own vocation and the place where one lives and works, is called to witness to the Gospel, with greater concern for those brothers and sisters who, from other countries and for various reasons, have come to live among us, thus turning the phenomenon of migration into an opportunity for encounter among civilizations. Let us pray and act so that this may occur in an ever more peaceful and constructive way, in respect and in dialogue, averting every temptation of conflict and oppression.
I would like to add a special word for seafarers and fishermen who have been living for some time in great hardship. In addition to the usual difficulties, their freedom to go ashore and bring chaplains on board is restricted, and they also risk piracy and the damage of illegal fishing. I express my closeness to them and the wish that their generosity, in sea rescue operations, may be rewarded by greater consideration. I am thinking, lastly, of the World Meeting of Families that is drawing to a close in Mexico City, and of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that begins precisely today. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for all of these intentions, invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.