Pope Francis on Tuesday called diversity a "gift" and differences among people of diverse race, origin or religion a “richness to welcome, not fear.”
During a private visit to a Rome soup kitchen and shelter run by
the Jesuit Refugee Services, the Centro Astalli, Pope Francis thanked
the staff and volunteers for their generosity and time in helping the
some 21,000 refugees who pass through their doors each year, and for
“recognizing them as people,” and working “to find concrete answers to
Rome, JRS runs three shelters, an Italian language school, and a
health facility which provides special attention for victims of torture,
and legal counseling services.
The Pope said Rome, “our city” is
often the second stop for many refugees who first make their way to the
island of Lampedusa at Italy’s southern most tip. The Pope described
their passage from North Africa as “difficult and exhausting ” and said
he thinks “above all about the women, the mothers who endure these
hardships in order to ensure a future for their children… and a
different life for themselves and their families.”
times,” he wondered, “have many people with '(under) international
protection’ written on their sojourn permits - here and in other places -
been forced to live in impoverished conditions, at times degrading,
without the possibility of beginning a dignified life, to think about a
Reflecting on the components of Jesuit mission, Pope
Francis said to “Serve” means “welcoming the person who arrives, with
care; it means "bending over” those in need and "offering a hand”
without “calculations,” or fear, but with tenderness and understanding.
part of mission, “Solidarity,” he said, is a word that generates “fear
(in) the developed world.” A word that people are loathe to say, as if
it were “a bad word. But it is our word,” he emphasized.
the Pope asked that his visit reach out to all the people living in the
Rome diocese and he asked them to reflect on how they have responded to
Christ’s call to serve others in need: do you look into the eyes of
those who seek justice or do you turn away?
third part of mission, the Pope said, means not simply providing
charity, like giving a sandwich to a poor man. Rather, it means helping
him get back on his feet.
Real mercy, Francis said, demands
justice and demands that “the Church, the city of Rome and institutions
ensure that no one ever has to go to a soup kitchen, shelter or seek
legal assistance to recognize his right to live and work and fully be a
person.” Integration in society, he stressed, is “also a right.”
He underscored that defense of the dignity and rights of the underprivileged is an essential part of the Church’s mission.
also called on religious sisters whose convents are “empty” to
“generously” and “courageously” open them to refugees, observing that
the Church does not need “empty convents to be transformed into hotels
(to) earn money.”