“In many regions of the world today people live in tragic situations of instability and uncertainty. It does not come as a surprise that in such contexts the poor and the destitute make plans to escape, to seek a new land that can offer them bread, dignity and peace. This is the migration of the desperate: men and women, often young, who have no alternative than to leave their own country to venture into the unknown. Every day thousands of people take even critical risks in their attempts to escape from a life with no future. Unfortunately, the reality they find in host nations is frequently a source of further disappointment.
At the same time, States with a relative abundance tend to tighten their borders under pressure from a public opinion disturbed by the inconveniences that accompany the phenomenon of immigration. Society finds itself having to deal with the “clandestine”, men and women in illegal situations, without any rights in a country that refuses to welcome them, victims of organized crime or of unscrupulous entrepreneurs.
In the light of this Revelation, the Church, Mother and Teacher, works so that every person’s dignity is respected, the immigrant is welcomed as a brother or sister, and all humanity forms a united family which knows how to appreciate with discernment the different cultures which comprise it. In Jesus, God came seeking human hospitality. This is why he makes the willingness to welcome others in love a characteristic virtue of believers. He chose to be born into a family that found no lodging in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2: 7) and experienced exile in Egypt (cf. Mt 2: 14). Jesus, who “had nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8: 20), asked those he met for hospitality. To Zacchaeus he said: “I must stay at your house today” (Lk 19: 5). He even compared himself to a foreigner in need of shelter: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25: 35). In sending his disciples out on mission, Jesus makes the hospitality they will enjoy an act that concerns him personally: “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Mt 10: 40).”
Pope St. John Paul II
Message for the World Migration Day of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000
Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.