In a world marked by increasing war and conflict, Pope Francis said a generous and merciful response to those fleeing violence is needed in order to combat hatred and foster a greater sense of fraternity and solidarity.
“At this place and time in history, there is great need for men and
women who hear the cry of the poor and respond with mercy and
generosity,” the Pope told a group of Jesuit alumni Sept. 17.
He noted how there are “tragically more than 65 million” forcibly
displaced persons around the globe, calling the number “unprecedented”
and “beyond all imagination.”
“The displaced population of today’s world is now larger than the
entire population of Italy,” he said, but cautioned that beyond the
statistics, each refugee is no different from our own families, and has
“an inalienable right to live in peace and to aspire to a better future
for their sons and daughters.”
Pope Francis spoke to members of the European Confederation and World
Union of Jesuit Alumni and Alumnae present in Rome for a Sept. 14-16
conference titled “Global Migration and Refugee Crisis: Time to
Contemplate and Act.”
Throughout their conference, the group was accompanied by the Jesuit
Refugee Service, which was founded in 1980 by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, superior
general of the Jesuits while Pope Francis was a young priest.
In his speech, the Pope noted how more than 35 years ago Fr. Arrupe
intervened on behalf of Vietnamese boat people in the South China Sea
who were suffering from pirate attacks and violence in their homeland.
“Sadly the world today still finds itself embroiled in countless
conflicts,” he noted, adding that “the terrible war in Syria, as well as
civil conflicts in South Sudan and elsewhere throughout the world, can
Meanwhile, as war “rages” throughout the world and record numbers of
refugees continue to die trying to cross the Mediterranean or spend
years “languishing” in camps, the Church, Francis told the group, “needs
you to draw on the bravery and example of Father Pedro Arrupe.”
He urged them to go back to their Ignatian roots as they face the
problems experienced by refugees, offering the Lord “all your liberty,
your memory, your understanding and your entire will” in serving
refugees and understanding the root causes of forced migration in each
of their own countries.
“I urge you to draw on the joys and successes that your Jesuit
education has given you by supporting the education of refugees
throughout the world,” the Pope said, pointing to the “disturbing truth”
that less than 50 percent of child refugees have access to primary
Further, Pope Francis noted that only 22 percent of adolescents are
enrolled in secondary school, while less than 1 percent of refugees have
access to a university education.
Francis urged the Jesuit alumni to “put your mercy in motion and help
transform this educational reality” in order to build “a stronger
Europe and a brighter future for refugees.”
Pointing to the Holy Year of Mercy, the Pope stressed that together
with the Church, the group would be able to better respond to the “human
tragedy” of refugees through concrete acts of mercy which promote their
integration not only into Europe, but any culture they move to.
“So, I encourage you to welcome refugees into your homes and
communities, so that their first experience of Europe is not the
traumatic experience of sleeping cold on the streets, but one of warm
Although it can at times seem like we’re alone when it comes to
putting mercy into action, Francis assured the group that they have the
support of the various ecclesial organizations and humanitarian causes
dedicated to serving the marginalized and excluded.
“Yet more important, remember that the love of God accompanies you in
this work. You are God’s eyes, mouth, hands and heart in this world.”