By Hannah Brockhaus
Immigrants are an important part of the Church and she is aware of the ways they have and are suffering, Pope Francis said to a group of African migrants Saturday.
“You are not the marginalized; you are at the center of the Church’s heart,” the pope said March 30. “The Church is aware of the sufferings that accompany your journey and she suffers with you.”
Francis is visiting Morocco March 30-31, where he met with a group of about 80 immigrants at the Caritas center of the Archdiocese of Rabat.
From several African countries, most of the immigrants present at the center for the pope’s visit are only in Morocco temporarily while they wait to try to get to Europe. Caritas helps them with food and to find jobs and accommodation.
“In reaching out to you in your very different situations, [the Church] is concerned to remind you that God wants us all to live our lives to the full. The Church wants to be at your side to help you achieve the very best for your life,” he said.
The pope noted that there has already been a lot of positive steps taken in the face of the modern immigration crisis, especially in developed countries.
But he also warned that the progress of society cannot be measured just by technological or economic advances. “It depends above all on our openness to being touched and moved by those who knock at our door,” he said.
“We know that it is not easy – for those who arrive and for those who receive them – to encounter a foreign culture, to put ourselves in the shoes of people quite different from ourselves, to understand their thoughts and their experiences,” Francis said. “As a result, we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves.”
But faces of those in need “shatter and debunk all those false idols that can take over and enslave our lives,” he added, “idols that promise an illusory and momentary happiness blind to the lives and sufferings of others.”
A city without the capacity for compassion is “arid and inhospitable,” “a heartless society… a barren mother,” he said.
Pope Francis encouraged a “promotion” of migrants within a culture and society and condemned their collective expulsion, which he said does not consider individual cases.
Promoting migrants begins, he said, “with the recognition that no human being is worthy of being discarded, but rather should be seen as a potential source of personal, cultural and professional enrichment in whatever place they find themselves.”
“Host communities will be enriched if they learn how best to appreciate and utilize the contribution made by migrants, while working to forestall all forms of discrimination and xenophobia,” he stated.
Addressing migrants directly, the pope said everyone should be involved in the effort of building a more dignified and fraternal life: “I like to think that the very first volunteer, assistant, rescuer or friend of a migrant is another migrant who knows at first hand the sufferings of the journey.”
Francis emphasized that “every human being has the right to life, every person has the right to dream and to find his or her rightful place in our ‘common home!’ Every person has a right to the future.”
“May the Lord, who during his earthly life experienced in his own flesh the suffering of exile, bless each one of you. May he give you the strength needed never to lose heart and always be for one another a ‘safe haven’ of welcome and acceptance,” he concluded.