On this Sunday is observed the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which every year invites us to reflect on the experience of many men and women, and many families, who leave their own country in search of better conditions of life. Sometimes this migration is voluntary, sometimes, unfortunately, it is forced by wars or persecutions, and it often happens -- as we know -- in dramatic conditions. Because of this the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was instituted 60 years ago. On the feast of the Holy Family, immediately after Christmas, we noted that even Jesus' parents had to flee their own land and take refuge in Egypt to save the life of their child: The Messiah, the Son of God was a refugee. The Church itself has always known migration. Sometimes, unfortunately, Christians feel forced to leave, with suffering, their land, thus impoverishing the country in which their ancestors lived. On the other hand, the voluntary movement of Christians, for various reasons, from one city to another, from one country to another, from one continent to another, are occasions to enhance the missionary dynamism of the Word of God and make the witness to faith circulate more in the mystical Body of Christ, crossing peoples and cultures, and reaching new frontiers, new environments.
"One single human family:" this is the theme of the message that I composed for today's observance. It is a theme that indicates the end, the goal of the great journey of humanity across the centuries: forming one family, naturally with all the differences that enrich it, but without walls, recognizing all as brothers. Thus says the Second Vatican Council: "All peoples constitute one single community. They have one origin since God made the whole human race inhabit the whole face of the earth" ("Nostra aetate," 1). The Church, the Council continues, "is in Christ as a sacrament, that is, sign and instrument of intimate union with God and the unity of the whole human race" ("Lumen gentium," 1). For this reason it is fundamental for Christians, although they are spread throughout the world and, therefore, different by culture and tradition, to be one, as the Lord wishes. This is the purpose of the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity," which will take place in the next couple of days, Jan. 18-25. This year it is inspired by a passage from the Acts of the Apostles: "United in the doctrine of the apostles, in communion, in the breaking of the bread and prayer" (Acts 2:42). The Octave of Christian Unity is preceded tomorrow by the Day of Jewish-Christian Dialogue: an important event which recalls the common roots that unite Jews and Christians.
In turning to the Virgin Mary, with the "Angelus" prayer, we entrust to her protection all migrants and those who give them pastoral care. May Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain for us, moreover, to make progress in the journey toward the full communion of all disciples in Christ.
[After reciting the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters, as you know, on May 1 I'll have the joy of beatifying Venerable Pope John Paul II, my beloved predecessor. The date that has been chosen is very significant: It will be the second Sunday of Easter, which he himself entitled "Divine Mercy," and on the eve of which his earthly life ended. Those who knew him, those who esteemed and loved him, cannot but rejoice with the Church for this event. We are happy!
I would like to assure a special remembrance in prayer the people of Australia, Brazil, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, who have recently been devastated by floods. May the Lord receive the souls of the dead, give strength to the evacuees and help those who are working to alleviate the suffering and grief.
[In English he said:]
To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, I extend heartfelt greetings. On Tuesday next we begin the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I invite all of you to join me in praying earnestly for the gift of unity among the followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Upon all who are here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.
[In Italian he said:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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