March 20, 2024 at 10:25 a.m.

Pope calls for pastors to walk alongside migrants in the Americas

Says we all need "to go beyond the limits of what is established"
Pope Francis shares a moment of silence with members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the end of a prayer for migrants and refugees in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 19, 2023. The service took place around "Angels Unawares," a sculpture by Canadian Timothy Schmalz, depicting a boat with 140 figures of migrants from various historical periods and various nations. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)
Pope Francis shares a moment of silence with members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the end of a prayer for migrants and refugees in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 19, 2023. The service took place around "Angels Unawares," a sculpture by Canadian Timothy Schmalz, depicting a boat with 140 figures of migrants from various historical periods and various nations. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez) (Courtesy photo of Lola Gomez)

By Justin McLellan | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs people and pastors capable of walking alongside refugees to respond to the reality of forced migration across the Americas, Pope Francis said.

Only by forming people "who dare to go beyond the limits of what is established" and are "capable of returning to the essential (and) breaking free from indifference" can the church lead migrants toward hope, he wrote in a message March 20 to bishops from Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama.

The bishops were meeting for a three-day conference in Panama City, organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, titled "Easter with our Migrant Brothers and Sisters."

Every migrant or refugee who leaves their home challenges Christians to wake from indifference and embrace a spirit of hospitality, the pope wrote, urging the bishops to work for a church in which migrants "do not feel judged but welcomed, where they can quench their hunger and thirst and revive hope."

He wrote that "by recognizing ourselves as strangers, with our own vulnerabilities and shortcomings, we can create the necessary conditions to welcome our neighbors as brothers and sisters, and thus make them participants in our daily lives."

Pope Francis underscored the dangers many migrants face in crossing the Darién Gap, a heavily forested region that straddles the Colombia-Panama border and which the pope called "a jungle that is a triumph of nature but that today is becoming a real 'Way of the Cross.'" According to data published by the Panamanian government, more than 500,000 people crossed the Darién Gap in 2023. The dangerous crossing leaves many migrants vulnerable to abuse by criminal groups, including sexual violence.

The challenges for migrants crossing the Darién Gap highlight "the limits of migration governance in the Western Hemisphere," the pope wrote, and it "feeds a thriving business that allows the accumulation of illicit profits from human trafficking."

Yet "neither the dangers posed by the travel and illegal extortion, nor the increasing returns or blockages in countries where these brothers and sisters are not wanted reduce the attraction -- real or imaginary -- of satisfying the needs for employment and better living conditions, or even of an awaited family reunification," he wrote.

Pope Francis praised the many initiatives of the church in the Americas revolving around care for migrants, including shelters, care centers for returning migrants, emergency medical care, legal advice, spiritual support and political advocacy.  

The bishops gathered at the meeting were scheduled to visit the Darién Gap to speak directly with migrant groups, reported ADN, the news agency of the Latin American bishops' council.

Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama City told ADN that the purpose of the bishops' meeting was to "raise awareness about the danger that migrants face when crossing the Darién jungle."





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