CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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New social imagination

HONG KONG (SE): “So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary,” Pope Francis said in his Urbi et Orbi (To the City of Rome and the World) in his message for Christmas.
“We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,” the pope said in making a strong call for what he termed a new social imagination in today’s world.
In pointing to the child born in Bethlehem at the first Christmas, he described Jesus as one of those forced to live on the fringes of society among the people who are often needed, but not really wanted.
He described him as being among those considered to be dirty and smelly foreigners, saying that everything about them seems to generate mistrust. He said people look at them as men and women to be kept at a distance and who, despite being poor, powerless and without a home, are regarded as people to be feared.
In his call for a new social imagination, Pope Francis said, “Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline, Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the child and to recognise him in the faces of little children, especially those, like Jesus, for whom there is no place in the inn” (cf. Luke 2:7).
Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung took up a similar theme in his Christmas message to the city’s migrant workers, which was played at an open air Mass celebrated in Chater Garden, Central, on the evening of December 24.
He pointed out that Jesus too was a migrant. “He migrated from heaven to earth,” Bishop Yeung told the around 8,000 people crammed into the open space to celebrate Christmas Mass on a warmish Christmas Eve in a pre-recorded video.
Nevertheless, in wishing the gathering a blessed Christmas celebration, the bishop of Hong Kong said that migrants are an integral part of society and belong in the city.
He added that in the eyes of God everyone is blessed and everyone is of equal value, something that we must appreciate and express through a willingness to support and serve others, which is the witness given to faith in the saviour born in Bethlehem in everyday life.
Pope Francis went on to say that a lack of social imagination serves only to isolate many people, yet it is precisely in the marginalised and despised that we see Jesus in our world today.
“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East, who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
He called on people to pray to the Lord for peace in Jerusalem and for all people in the Holy Land, asking that there will be sufficient imagination to find a way to resume dialogue so that a satisfactorily negotiated solution can finally be reached.
He then prayed for the people of good will, who search for ways to improve the situation and dispel tension between the people of the two territories.
“May the Lord also sustain the efforts of all those in the international community inspired by good will to help that afflicted land to find, despite grave obstacles, the harmony, justice and security that it has long awaited,” Pope Francis said.
He then prayed for the children who are deprived of their right to a safe home, singling out those from Syria and Iraq, as well as the Yemen, who are left wounded and torn by the conflict in the country.
Next, he included South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Nigeria in his prayer.
He also prayed for those lands verging on war, pointing to the Korean Peninsula and Venezuela as places in dire need of some serenity in the dialogue among peoples.
The pope then turned his eyes towards the Ukraine, which he described as torn by violence, and the Union of Myanmar and Bangladesh, praying that the international community may again find the imagination to effectively address the human drama that is forcing people to flee, seeking safety in a foreign land.
Finally he prayed for the unemployed and especially their children who are deprived not only of material security, but also of hope, and whose childhoods are often robbed from them by the necessity to work from a young age.
But the day was also a celebration and in Chater Garden, as the chaplain to Filipinos in Hong Kong, Father Jay Flandez, wished all a happy Christmas, the world did begin to dance as people carried the joy of peace and good will into the city.
And so it was Christmas.

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