When Pope Francis celebrated the Eucharist in St Peter’s Basilica for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on 15 January, he took the opportunity to remind us and all who had gathered that in order to encounter others we must first overcome our fears.
He said that encountering people from different nations and cultures “… is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know, and to acknowledge him or her”.
Pope Francis went on to emphasis that an authentic encounter doesn’t end with welcome but must include three further actions which he had previously spelled out in his message for this Day: “protect, promote and integrate.”
He said, “Local communities are sometimes afraid the newly arrived will disturb the established order … and the newly arrived are afraid of confrontation, judgement, discrimination, and failure.”
“Having doubts and fears is not a sin. 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 sin”, he continued, “is to refuse to encounter the other”. Because every encounter is “a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord”.
Pope Francis concluded his words by expressing his hope that “we may all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves”.
As we strive to keep alive Brigid’s flame of compassion and hospitality, may we embrace and respond to this invitation in all the communities of which we are a part this year.