January 14, 2018 is the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This Day invites us to attend to the needs and conditions of the migrants and refugees who have risked their life to flee war, persecution, natural disaster, and poverty.
Immigration—throughout the world and within the United States—is clearly a hot button issue, when addressed from a political perspective. However, it is also a perfect opportunity to experience grace in the tension, as we interpret our life through the lens of faith. From a secular perspective, this stance will appear radical. From a faith perspective, this stance will bring peace.
Pope Francis calls the situation of migrants and refugees “undoubtedly a ‘sign of the times’ which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit… Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”
On this 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis invites us to find solidarity across difference. “This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience.” He calls each of us, to “respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight.” He states, “our shared response may be articulated in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate.”
Welcoming suggests a personal encounter—focusing actions on the centrality of the human person. Pope Francis states, “Welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. “ He goes on, “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.”
The call to welcome can be counter-cultural, given our political climate. However, it is rooted deeply in our faith—resonating with welcoming the birth of Jesus himself. The Basilica makes substantial commitments to welcoming through its wide range of Liturgies, RCIA, and St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. The Immigrant Support Ministry has welcomed five refugee families and supported several families seeking asylum.
Protecting calls us to recognize and defend the God-given dignity of those fleeing danger. Pope Francis states, this “may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.” This absolute acknowledgement of the dignity of the other, and the subsequent call to protection, can expose underlying division in our society. Grounded in our faith, taking the call of Christ seriously, we are invited to stand confidently and faithfully as we declare we will offer care to all—refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented alike.
What does this protecting look like at The Basilica? What does it mean for us individually and as a parish community? There will be opportunities for you to speak with our Parish Council members about how we live this out, in the coming weeks. Together, let us prayerfully reflect on this call.
Promoting calls for an intentional effort to ensure that all migrants and refuges—as well as the communities who welcome them—are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings.
Integrating calls us to consider the many “opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees.” We are called to foster a culture of encounter—actively embracing opportunities for cultural exchange, and recognizing the strength of diversity.
The call to Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate is not easy. Yet, it is at the heart of the challenge of discipleship in our day. Let us wrestle together with how we can live this out at The Basilica. Let us share our hopes and fears, united in love and forgiveness. We are grateful for this opportunity.