Fear becomes sin when it leads to hostility toward migrants, pope says

| January 15, 2018 | 6 Comments

Pope Francis greets women as they present offertory gifts during a Mass marking the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 14. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need.

“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” the pope said Jan. 14, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, “the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

Thousands of migrants and refugees now living in Rome, but coming from more than 60 countries, joined Pope Francis and an international group of cardinals, bishops and priests for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland’s national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including many of the people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass.

While care for migrants and refugees has been a priority for Pope Francis, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914.

After reciting the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square after the Mass, Pope Francis announced that “for pastoral reasons” the date of the annual celebration was being moved to the second Sunday of September. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, would be marked Sept. 8, 2019.

According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ response to the disciples who asked him where he lived. “Come and you will see,” Jesus tells them, inviting them into a relationship where they would welcome and get to know each other.

“His invitation ‘Come and see!’ is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals,” the pope said. “It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her.”

For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. “It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future,” he added.

For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself “without prejudices to their rich diversity,” understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential.

‘In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?” Pope Francis asked.

“It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences,” the pope said. That is one reason why “we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves.”

People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers “will disturb the established order (or) will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up,” he said. And the newcomers have their own fears “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure.”

Both set of fears, the pope said, “are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view.”

Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome and to see Jesus present in the other, especially “the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker.”

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Category: U.S. & World News

  • Charles C.

    Will somebody please help me out? I read and reread articles like this and find myself (after about the fifth reading) pulling out the few hairs I have left and making inarticulate sounds.

    The Pope, US bishops, the Catechism, and human understanding going back to before the Church was founded, all agree that nations have the right to control their borders. If nothing else that means the nation can decide who enters and when.

    In this article, the Pope points out that it is legitimate to be afraid that newcomers will disturb the established order or steal something that took a long time to build up. It is especially legitimate since that is exactly what is happening in the Mid-east and Europe.

    But, says the Pope, even though a country has a legitimate fear of loss and has the recognized authority to prevent that loss by putting limits on the immigration of people from countries with cultures opposed to the existing one, it must not act.

    In fact, the country must encourage the arrival of those it has a legitimate fear of, on pain of sin. It must even go beyond encouraging, according to the Pope. A Christian would build bridges, not walls, declares the Pope, in what seems to be a call to offer transportation to those interested in coming and reducing or eliminating restrictions.

    Looking at the other side of the issue, the Pope, Catechism, and everyone involved, declares that the immigrants must respect our laws and customs. So, what does he propose when they don’t? Would the Pope approve of deportation for any immigrant who breaks a federal or state law? What about the custom of speaking English? Does the Pope like the idea of a literacy test after seven years in the country? get a job within a year? In short, what does the immigrant have to do, and under what penalty?

    Please, will someone explain all this to me?

    • Roy Hobbes

      I’ll try to explain. First, read George Orwell’s “1984” so you can understand what is meant by ‘newspeak.’ Second, reread the article with that understanding of ‘newspeak’ in mind; it will then all make sense.

      • Charles C.

        This is the Pope we’re talking about, I just can’t give up on him. That’s not a criticism of you or your position, I’m inclined that way myself, but there has to be some good explanation for what he and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops keep putting out on this issue. Doesn’t there?

        I wish that people who keep quoting the Old Testament instruction to the Jews to welcome the stranger would also quote the New Testament instruction found in 2 John:

        “8 Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. 9 Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

        10 Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; 11 for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.”

        I think what I’m trying to say is that this entire issue seems more complicated from a moral point of view than the “Church leadership” is claiming.

        It’s pretty clear from a national, pragmatic, point of view what the correct approach is, and it certainly differs from what the bishops (including the Bishop of Rome) are telling us.

        All I want them to do is to make a clear and logical case for their position with an outline of how it could work in the world that exists. If I’m asking for too much, I’d appreciate knowing about it.

        • Roy Hobbes

          “…but there has to be some good explanation for what he and the US
          Conference of Catholic Bishops keep putting out on this issue. Doesn’t


          Regarding the USCCB, just look at how much .gov $$$ they’ve reaped over the last decade or so for taking in “refugees.” Those numbers alone will astonish you.

  • Charles C.

    “We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years and we must do more to stop it.”

    President Bill Clinton – State of the Union address.

    “We all agree on the need to better secure the border and to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants. We are a generous and welcoming people here in the United States but those who have entered the country illeally and those who employ them disrespect the rule of law and they are showing disregard for those who are following the law. We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently, and lawfully to become immigrants in this country.”

    “The bill before us will certainly do some good. It will authorize some badly needed funding for better fences and better security along our border.”

    US Senator Barack Obama (D – IL)

    “I think the American people, they appreciate and believe in immigration but they can’t have a situation where you just have half a million people pouring over the border without any kind of mechanism to control it.”

    US president Barack Obama

    Has Trump simply adopted the plans of Clinton and Obama?

  • tschraad

    I myself will sum up Pope Francis opinions when he said “For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries”

    Respecting the laws? illegals must respect the law, Those breaking the law must pay the price of whatever the host country law is. No invitation was given, end of story. Deport.

    Refugees, were invited but they still must obey the law.