10/08/2008, 00.00
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Pope: we must learn to see refugees as our brothers

In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Benedict XVI calls Christians to solidarity and openness, because the Church is not "exclusive," but "open to all, formed by believers without distinction of culture or race."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on January 18, 2009, should "be for all an incentive to live brotherly love to the full without making any kind of distinction and without discrimination, in the conviction that any one who needs us and whom we can help is our neighbour," because, as St. Paul teaches, "the exercise of charity is the culmination and synthesis of the whole of Christian life." The message that Benedict XVI wrote for the day, made public today, it is centered upon the commandment of charity, emphasizes the responsibility of Christian openness, and is dedicated to the theme of "St Paul migrant, ‘Apostle of the peoples’."

In the Pauline Year, Benedict XVI is therefore proposing the teaching and testimony of St. Paul, "a great and humble Apostle and a migrant, an evangelizer of peoples and cultures." The life and preaching of this "migrant by vocation," the Pope writes, "were wholly directed to making Jesus known and loved by all, for all persons are called to become a single people in him. This is the mission of the Church and of every baptized person in our time too, even in the era of globalization; a mission that with attentive pastoral solicitude is also directed to the variegated universe of migrants - students far from home, immigrants, refugees, displaced people, evacuees - including for example, the victims of modern forms of slavery, and of human trafficking. Today too the message of salvation must be presented with the same approach as that of the Apostle to the Gentiles, taking into account the different social and cultural situations and special difficulties of each one as a consequence of his or her condition as a migrant or itinerant person."

For those who may be the most vulnerable, meaning refugees, the secretary of the pontifical council for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant peoples, Monsignor Agostino Marchetto said in his presentation of the papal documents that "one gets the impression that for years, they have been treated without consideration of the factors that forced him to flee. This is also translated into attempts to block their entry into the countries where they arrive, and in the adoption of measures intended to make this more difficult." "Unfortunately, this attitude adopted by countries in the developed world has negative repercussions on the policies toward refugees in the developing world. For this reason, the situation is becoming troubling, especially if we consider the stalling of international legislation that was and is intended to support and protect the persecuted."

In this context, there is special significance in the hope expressed by Benedict XVI that the example of St. Paul may "be an incentive for us to show solidarity to these brothers and sisters of ours and to promote, in every part of the world and by every means, peaceful coexistence among different races, cultures and religions."

This presumes St. Paul's "model of the Church," proposed again by Benedict XVI, one that is "not exclusive but on the contrary open to all, formed by believers without distinction of culture or race: every baptized person is, in fact, a living member of the one Body of Christ. In this perspective, fraternal solidarity expressed in daily gestures of sharing, joint participation and joyful concern for others, acquires a unique prominence." "If we are aware of this, how can we fail to take charge of all those, particularly refugees and displaced people, who are in conditions of difficulty or hardship? How can we fail to meet the needs of those who are de facto the weakest and most defenceless, marked by precariousness and insecurity, marginalized and often excluded by society? We should give our priority attention to them because, paraphrasing a well known Pauline text, 'God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God' (1 Cor 1:27)."

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