Pope Francis told a group of migrants in Bologna, "You are warriors of hope," while he called on the countries of the world to open their gates to immigration. Posing with the migrants for selfies, the pontiff spent an hour with migrants and refugees during a light drizzle of rain. He also hosted a luncheon at the Basilica of St. Petronius for refugees and prisoners, and even wore in solidarity a yellow plastic ID bracelet used by asylum-seekers. “Do you know what you are? You are ‘warriors of hope’!” Francis exclaimed during his address.

Urging them not to give in to despair, the Pope said on October 1 why there are Europeans who oppose mass migration. "Many do not know you and they are afraid,” he said. “This makes them feel entitled to judge harshly and coldly while thinking they see well. But this is not true. We see well only with the proximity that comes from mercy. Without this, the other remains a stranger, even an enemy, and cannot become my neighbor.”

Pope Francis suggested that immigration can only be understood by meeting the people involved, rather than considering its causes and effects. “From a distance, we can say and think anything, as easily happens when terrible phrases and insults are written across the internet,” he said. “If we look upon our neighbor without mercy, we are unaware of his suffering, his problems.”

“Today all I see is a great desire for friendship and help,” the Pope continued. “I would like to thank the institutions and all the volunteers for the attention and commitment in taking care of those who are here.”

“In you I see Jesus Christ, as with any stranger who knocks at our door, who identifies himself with the foreigner, of every age and condition, accepted or rejected,” he said.

The Pope said it is “necessary for more countries to adopt private and community-based welcoming programs and to open humanitarian avenues for refugees in the most difficult situations, to avoid unbearable waiting periods and lost time.”

Last week, Pope Francis began a campaign to provoke a “shift in thinking” toward refugees worldwide. He said at his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square, “Brothers, we mustn’t be afraid to share the journey! We mustn’t be afraid to share the hope!” The effort is being led by Caritas Internationalis -- the worldwide philanthropic arm of the Church. One of its aims is to assist migrants building better relations with local communities.




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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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