On the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis pointed to St. Frances Cabrini as an example of how to treat foreigners, calling her a “courageous” woman who knew how to bring God’s love to those who were lonely and in hardship.
After praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Jan.
15, Pope Francis sent a special greeting to members of different ethnic
communities gathered who had gathered in honor of the World Day of
Migrants and Refugees.
“I wish that you can live peacefully in the towns that welcome you,
respecting their laws and traditions and, at the same time, maintaining
the values of your cultures of origin,” the Pope said, adding that “the
meeting of different cultures is always an enrichment for all!”
Speaking to those who work directly with migrants, the Pope thanked
them for the welcome and accompaniment they provide to newcomers, and
encouraged them to continue their efforts “always remembering the
example of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini,” who is remembered in a special
way this year, which marks the centenary of her death.
“This courageous Sister dedicated her life to bringing the love of
Christ to those who were far from their homeland and families,” he said,
adding that her witness can help us learn “to take care of our foreign
brother, in whom Jesus is present, often suffering, rejected and
St. Cabrini, more commonly known as “Mother Cabrini,” was an Italian
missionary who spent much of her life working with Italian immigrants in
the United States. Though she had a deathly fear of water and drowning,
she crossed the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times in service of the
Church and the people she was assisting.
After arriving to the U.S. she wasted no time getting to work, and
traveled not only overseas, but also throughout the U.S. setting up
orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for the often marginalized
Eventually, St. Frances became a naturalized U.S. citizen. She died
in 1917 and was canonized in 1946, just before a new wave of immigrants
began to arrive in the U.S. Due to her tireless service to struggling
foreigners, she was named patron of immigrants.
Announced Oct. 13, the theme for the World Day of Migrants and
Refugees is “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless,” and is
meant to draw attention to the plight of the many children who suffer
due to various forms of slavery and exploitation.
Speaking of the theme, Pope Francis said these “small brothers and
sisters of ours, especially those who are unaccompanied, are exposed to
so much danger.” Because of this, we must “adopt every possible measure
in order to guarantee child migrants protection and defense, as well as
In his address before the Angelus, the Pope focused on the day’s
Gospel passage from John in which John the Baptist, in seeing Jesus come
toward him, says “behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
With these words John is bearing witness to the fact that Jesus is
the Son of God, he said, and recounting the scene, noted how until that
moment John had been preaching the coming of the Messiah and encouraging
his followers to repent, since the time was nearly at hand.
Then the moment arrives when Jesus “presents himself on the bank of
the river, in the midst of the people, sinners – like each of us,”
Francis said, noting that this was Jesus’ first public act since leaving
his home in Nazareth.
When the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove as the
voice of the Father proclaims that he is his beloved Son, John
recognizes it as the sign that he’s been waiting for, and that Jesus is
in fact the Messiah.
John, he said, was “baffled,” because the Messiah was manifested in
what for him was “an unthinkable way: in the midst of sinners, baptized
like them, rather, for them.”
“But the Holy Spirit illuminates John and makes him understand that
this is how God’s justice is fulfilled, how his design of salvation is
fulfilled.” Jesus is the Messiah, showing himself not with “the power of
this world,” but rather “as the Lamb of God who takes upon himself and
takes away the sins of the world.”
Francis then explained that his reason for making such a lengthy, detailed reflection on the passage is because “it’s decisive!”
“It’s decisive for our faith and it’s decisive also for the mission
of the Church,” he said, explaining that in every age the Church “is
called to do what John the Baptist did: to show Jesus to the people.”
When during Mass the priest presents the bread and wine that have
become the Body and Blood of Christ to the people, this act “act
represents the entire mission of the Church, which does not announce
herself, but announces Christ; does not bring herself, but brings
This, Pope Francis said, is because “it is he and only he who saves
his people from sin, frees them and guides them to the land of life and