In a moment which will surely reverberate across the border, Pope Francis paused at the fence between Mexico and the United States on Feb. 17 to pray for migrants who have lost their lives making the perilous journey north. Silence fell over the nearby Ciudad Juárez fairgrounds as the pope walked up a ramp lined with yellow flowers to a specially built platform facing across the fence toward the United States to reach a large cross erected along the border.
During a homily delivered a short time later, Francis called for “open hearts” and recognition that the thousands fleeing their homelands are often victims of the worst forms of exploitation. “We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant the migration of thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometers through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones,” he said. “They are our brothers and sisters, who are being expelled by poverty and violence, drug trafficking and organized crime.”
The pope has asked policymakers north of the border to stop looking at people from Mexico, Central America and even farther south who are migrating north seeking a better life as a problem or as numbers, but to see them as individuals, each with a story to tell, each with a different drama propelling them into the North and its uncertain welcome and future.