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Migrants are not just a social issue pope says

VATICAN (CNS): Christians are called to follow the spirit of the beatitudes by comforting the poor and the oppressed, especially migrants and refugees who are rejected, exploited and left to die, Pope Francis said during a Mass commemorating the sixth anniversary of his visit to the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa on July 8.
 
The least ones, “who have been thrown away, marginalised, oppressed, discriminated against, abused, exploited, abandoned, poor and suffering” cry out to God, “asking to be freed from the evils that afflict them,” the pope said.
 
“They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues. This is not just about migrants, in the twofold sense that migrants are, first of all, human persons and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalised society,” he said.
 
According to the Vatican, an estimated 250 migrants, refugees and rescue volunteers attended the Mass, which was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis greeted each person present after the Mass ended.
 
The pope’s call for compassion toward migrants and refugees came less than a week after a migrant detention camp in Tripoli, Libya, was bombed in an air raid. According to Al-Jazeera, the air raid killed nearly 60 people, mostly migrants and refugees from African countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.
 
Also on July 7, news media reported that an Italian-flagged rescue vessel carrying around 40 shipwrecked migrants in addition to crew, docked in Lampedusa in defiance of Italy’s migrant-hostile government, particularly the far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini. The ship was out of drinking water and overloaded and was the second vessel in a matter of days to dock in the port city out of desperation.
 
In his homily, the pope reflected on the first reading from the book of Genesis in which Jacob dreamed of a stairway leading to heaven “and God’s messengers were going up and down on it.”
 
The pope explained that the ladder in Jacob’s dream was the means by which the Lord comes down to humankind and “reveals himself; it is God who saves.” 
 
He stressed, “The Lord is a refuge for the faithful, who call on him in times of tribulation,” he said. 
 
Turning to the gospel reading from St. Matthew, which recalled Jesus curing a sick woman and raising a girl from the dead, the pope said it reveals “the need for a preferential option for the least, those who must be given the front row in the exercise of charity.”
 
That same care, Pope Francies added, must extend to the vulnerable who flee suffering and violence only to encounter indifference and death.
 
“These least ones are abandoned and cheated into dying in the desert; these least ones are tortured, abused and violated in detention camps; these least ones face the waves of an unforgiving sea; these least ones are left in reception camps too long for them to be called temporary,” the pope said.
 
Pope Francis said the image of Jacob’s ladder represents the connection between heaven and earth that is “guaranteed and accessible to all.” However, to climb those steps requires “commitment, effort and grace.”
 
The pope said, “I like to think that we could be those angels, ascending and descending, taking under our wings the little ones, the lame, the sick, those excluded. The least ones, who would otherwise stay behind and would experience only grinding poverty on earth, without glimpsing in this life anything of heaven’s brightness.”

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