Pope Francis, the refugees and the concreteness of the Gospel

The Pontiff becomes the voice of humanity on the move and appeals to parishes and religious communities to host one family of migrants

There’s an image that has deeply touched the whole world in the past days. It’s the photograph of Aylan, the two-year infant in the arms of a rescuer on the Turkish shore of Bodrum, drowned with his mother and his five-year brother, buried in Kobane. There is a Europe that resembles the deaf and mute man healed by Jesus: nations unable to hear the cry of misery, of persecutions; Countries closing their borders to prevent this exodus. States unable to find the right words to communicate and convey solidarity to these wandering peoples.Nor is there, in the Old Continent, mention of debates on how to distribute through quotas the thousands of refugees landed on the shores on Italy and Greece; there are no discussions on the thousands of men, women and children halted at the borders, treated as a commodity, with a number stamped on their arms. Nor does Europe delve into the tragedy of all those risking their lives on trucks or along the railway tracks linking France to England. Just like Jesus with the deaf and mute man, Francis seems to want to take us by hand and bring us away from the jabber of the last few days and listen, in silence, to the voice of those facing dangers of all kinds, motivated by the hope in a better future, for them and for their children; just as the Word of God, that “needs silence to be welcomed as a word that heals, that reconciles and re-establishes communication”, Francis underlines.The episode narrated in the Gospel of Mark speaks about a God that is not closed in on himself, the Pope said at the Angelus prayer of Sunday September 6, “but is open and connects with humanity.” He comes to us, “surpasses the abyss of the infinite difference between him and us.” It’s a Gospel that also speaks of us. The Holy Father went on: “Often we are withdrawn and closed in ourselves and we create many inaccessible and inhospitable islands. Even the most basic human relations at times create a reality incapable of mutual openness: the closed couple, the closed family, the closed group, the closed parish, the closed homeland…. This is not from God! This is our sin.”Thus returns the image of the deaf and mute man, namely, the image of a world unable to listen to the voices of men and women experiencing situations of difficulty and deprivation and with it returns the globalization of indifference highlighted by the Pope in his first visit, in July 2013, to the Island of Lampedusa, before the tragedy of all those who face the risks of sea-crossing on inadequate or overcrowded barges. Already on that occasion the Pope had urged a reflection on a sea that has become a liquid cemetery, on the faces of women, men and children scarred by fear, hunger and desperation. On that occasion was heard the firm call to replace the globalization of indifference, the inability to cry, with the globalization of solidarity. But those words waned in the wind or on the pages of newspapers. Today we are facing new tragedies, as impressive as those of two-three years ago. Thus Francis becomes the voice of that humanity, with an appeal to parishes, institutions, monasteries, shrines and religious communities, to welcome a family of migrants, thereby expressing the “concreteness of the Gospel”, an invitation to be “near” the young and abandoned, “giving them concrete hope.” It’s a gesture enshrined within the journey that Francis proposed with the Jubilee of Mercy, that opens December 8. It is precisely through baptism, through the Aramaic word “effata”, which means “to open up”, that for the Pope is fulfilled the miracle, and “we were healed from the deafness of selfishness and the muteness of closure and we were introduced to the great family of the Church. We can listen to God who speaks to us and communicate his word to those who have never heard of it, who have forgotten and buried it under the thorns of the anxieties and of the illusions of the world.”

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