Fear of immigration not a sin, but becomes sinful when it leads to hostility, Pope says

Family members bring up the offertory gifts as Pope Francis celebrates Mass marking the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need.

“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” the pope said Jan. 14, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.


While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, “the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

Thousands of migrants and refugees now living in Rome, but coming from more than 60 countries, joined Pope Francis and an international group of cardinals, bishops and priests for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland’s national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including many of the people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass.

“In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?”

While care for migrants and refugees has been a priority for Pope Francis, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914.

After reciting the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square after the Mass, Pope Francis announced that “for pastoral reasons” the date of the annual celebration was being moved to the second Sunday of September. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, would be marked Sept. 8, 2019.

According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ response to the disciples who asked him where he lived. “Come and you will see,” Jesus tells them, inviting them into a relationship where they would welcome and get to know each other.

“His invitation ‘Come and see!’ is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals,” the pope said. “It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her.”

The World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914.

For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. “It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future,” he added.

For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself “without prejudices to their rich diversity,” understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential.

“In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?” Pope Francis asked.

“It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences,” the pope said. That is one reason why “we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves.”

People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers “will disturb the established order (or) will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up,” he said. And the newcomers have their own fears “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure.”

Both set of fears, the pope said, “are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view.”

Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome and to see Jesus present in the other, especially “the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker.”

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Christopher Lochner
1 year ago

But, it is a sin to show hostility to ANYONE. It is sinful to show lack of Christian charity to ANYONE. To single out any one group for that which is a basic tenet of The Faith is sinful. To show preferential charity is more of a self-serving wearing of ashes like a hypocrite. We can, and must, in our works assist a limited number of people as there is only so much time in the day. To elevate one group over another is a parsing of Christ. Have your politics, as Jesus knows we do, but do TRY to love ALL. Allow sinful leaders to have their political machinations as it gives them a sense of secular power. But try not to fear. And do speak to that which is right but do not attack as it demeans your humanity. As the saying goes, "Light One Candle". Attack the sin and not the sinner which, of course, is much easier said than done. Protest in a civil and constructive manner. Remember January 15.... I am glad to see the Holy Father is speaking to the Truth of our Faith.

J Cosgrove
1 year ago

According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth.

About 60 million of them are living in the United States.

So the Pope can not be thinking of the United States which has 5% of the world's population and 25% of those born outside their country.

Also the Pope does not seem to understand that things are different today as opposed to just a short time ago. There are about 7 billion people in the world compared to less that 2 billion a hundred years ago and 1 billion a hundred years before that.

When the great migrations were happening during the time of the Roman Empire, the empire had only about 25 million people. Now the same area has nearly a billion people. So there could be migrations of people without disrupting too much the indigenous people of an area. Now any movement of people will not have a place to go where there are no people and cause a disruption to the inhabitants of an area. But yet people just blithely say let them move in. Of course they know that means that the local people will have to support them.

Unless the Pope and any of the others supporting migration take this into account, there is no sensible discussion.

Steve Magnotta
1 year ago

Amen, Papa.

Michael McDermott
1 year ago

There is a conflict inherent in the issue of immigration, regarding the level of ‘Open Borders’ necessary to be a Refuge, versus a society looking for a fresh younger Labor force…
Versus a fortress guarding the progress made by a distinct culture in peril of being swamped by those (often diametrically) opposed to it...
– as with Radical Islam overtaking and persecuting the Christian & Jewish Faith – as Isis did in the Levant and wherever else they raised their black flags..

How can a Nation State provide Foreign Aid, if intended first Aid Recipients are being moved inside that same Nation with Citizenship status;, and with the foreign land (formerly fertile) being left to abandonment to the likes of 'Isis' or desolation by a population migrating in search of greater consumer electronic goods?

Here is a Different point of view – which Deserves Response from those pushing an open borders agenda.
Eber: Break all the “chains” from the past
“According to what Webster’s tells us in the dictionary, Chain Migration is the social process by which immigrants from a particular town follow others from that town to a particular destination city or neighborhood. The destination may be in another country or in a new, usually urban, location within the same country.

This terminology seemed to be acceptable until last week when Democratic leaders Dick Durbin and Nancy Pelosi informed us “chain migration” was a racist term that offended African…


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