Pope speaks out for immigrants in Christmas message
ROME, Italy –Pope Francis issued a strong defense of immigration in his Christmas Eve mass Sunday, saying faith demands foreigners be welcomed, even as support for far-right parties has risen in Europe.
“They had to leave their people, their home and their land,” Francis told an audience at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. “This was no comfortable or easy journey for a young couple about to have a child … At heart, they were full of hope and expectation because of the child about to be born; yet their steps were weighed down by the uncertainties and dangers that attend those who have to leave their home behind.”
“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary,” Francis said Sunday.
“We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones.”
More than 160,000 people have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean this year alone, with at least 3,000 having drowned in the process, according to the United Nations.
Rather than react to migration and those seeking refuge with hostility, Francis said, people should work to create a “new social imagination … in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth.”
While some far-right parties in Europe have made Christian identity part of their platforms, often in opposition to Muslim immigrants or refugees, Francis said respect for migration is an integral part of Christianity, as the faithful’s “document of citizenship” comes from God, not any specific country.
“True power and authentic freedom are shown in honoring and assisting the weak and the frail,” he said.