Address of Pope Francis to the participants of the Conference on xenophobia, racism and populist nationalism in the context of global migration, 20 September 2018
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am pleased to welcome you to the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration (Rome, 18-20 September, 2018). I cordially greet the representatives of the United Nations institutions, the Council of Europe, the Christian churches, notably the World Council of Churches, and other religions. I thank Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, for his kind words to me on behalf of all participants.
We are living in times where feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading. Feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity and, as such, considered not sufficiently worthy of being fully part of society’s life. These feelings all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion, which severely hinder the dignity of the people involved and their fundamental rights, including the right to life and to physical and moral integrity. Unfortunately, it also happens in the world of politics, that some yield to the temptation of exploiting the fears or objective difficulties of some groups, using illusory promises for short-sighted electoral interests.
The seriousness of these phenomena cannot leave us indifferent. We are called, in our respective roles, to cultivate and promote respect for the intrinsic dignity of every human person, beginning with the family – the place where we learn from a tender age the values of sharing, welcoming, brotherhood and solidarity – but also in the various social contexts in which we live and work.
I think, first and foremost, of the teachers and educators, of whom a renewed commitment is asked to ensure that in the schools, the universities, and in other places of education, they teach respect for every human being, regardless of the physical and cultural diversity, helping overcome prejudice.
In a world where access to information and communication tools is increasingly common, those who work in the field of social communication have an increased responsibility. They have a duty to act in the service of truth, and to disseminate information ensuring the promotion of a culture of encounter and openness to the other, with mutual respect for diversity.
Those, then, who take economic advantage of the climate of distrust in foreigners, where the irregularity or illegality of their stay encourages and fosters a system of insecurity and exploitation – sometimes tantamount to slavery –, should make a deep examination of conscience, knowing that one day they will have to respond to God for the choices they made.
Facing the spread of new forms of xenophobia and racism, the leaders of all religions also have an important mission: that of spreading, among their faithful, the principles and ethical values that are written by God in the heart of every person, known as the natural moral law. It is a matter of making and inspiring gestures that contribute to building societies based on the principle of the sacredness of human life and respect for the dignity of every person, based on charity, on brotherhood – that goes far beyond tolerance –, and on solidarity.
In particular, may the Christian churches become humble and active witnesses of Christ’s love. For Christians, in fact, the moral responsibilities mentioned above assume an even deeper meaning in the light of faith.
The common origin and the singular bond with the Creator make us all members of a same family, brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God, as taught by the biblical Revelation.
The dignity of all men, the fundamental unity of mankind, and the call to live as brothers, are confirmed and further strengthened because we welcome the Good News that all are equally saved and gathered together in Christ, to such an extent that – in the words of Saint Paul – "there is neither Jew nor Gentile; neither slave nor free; nor is there, for you [we] are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3.28).
In this light, the other is not just a being to be respected by virtue of their intrinsic dignity, but above all a brother or sister to be loved. In Christ, tolerance becomes brotherly love, tenderness and active solidarity. This is especially true of the smallest of our brothers, among whom we can recognize the stranger, the foreigner, in whom Jesus identified himself. On the day of the last judgement, the Lord will remind us: “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in” (Mt 25.43). But already today it asks us: "I am a foreigner, don't you recognize me?”.
And when Jesus said to the Twelve: "it shall not be so among you" (Mt 20.26), he was not just referring to Heads of States or political power, but to all Christian beings. Being a Christian, in fact, is a call to go against the tide, to recognize, welcome and serve Christ himself in our discarded brothers.
Conscious of the many manifestations of closeness, acceptance and integration towards foreigners already proclaimed, I hope that many other collaborative initiatives might arise out of the encounter that just ended, so that together we can build a more just and caring society.
I entrust each one of you and your families to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of tenderness, and I willingly impart my Apostolic blessing to you and all your loved ones.