Dear brothers and sisters !
Current migratory flows are the expression of a complex and articulated phenomenon, the understanding of which requires a careful analysis of all the aspects that characterize the different stages of the migratory experience, from departure to arrival, including a possible feedback. With the intention of contributing to this effort to read reality, I have decided to dedicate the message of the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the freedom that should always characterize the choice to leave one’s own land.
“Free to go, free to stay” was the title of a solidarity initiative promoted a few years ago by the Italian Bishops’ Conference as a concrete response to the challenges of contemporary migration. By constantly listening to the particular Churches, I have been able to observe that the guarantee of this freedom is a widespread and shared pastoral concern.
“After they left, behold, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said to him: “Arise, take the child and his mother with you, and flee to Egypt; and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is going to seek the child to destroy him’” (Mt 2, 13). The escape of the Holy Family to Egypt was not the result of a free choice, just like many migrations that marked the history of the people of Israel. Migrating should always be a free choice, but in fact in many cases even today it is not. Conflicts, natural disasters or, more simply, the impossibility of leading a dignified and prosperous life in their country of origin force millions of people to leave. Already in 2003, Saint John Paul II declared that “building the concrete conditions of peace, with regard to migrants and refugees, means seriously committing ourselves to safeguarding above all the right not to emigrate, that is that is, to live in peace and dignity in one’s own country” (1).
“They took their flocks and all that they had acquired in the land of Canaan and they came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him” (Gn 46, 6). It was because of a severe famine that Jacob and his entire family were forced to flee to Egypt, where his son Joseph ensured their survival. Persecutions, wars, climatic phenomena and misery are among the most visible causes of contemporary forced migrations. Migrants flee poverty, fear, despair. To eliminate these causes and put an end to forced migration, we need the common commitment of all, each according to his or her responsibilities. A commitment that begins with asking ourselves what we can do, but also what we must stop doing. We must strive to end the arms race, the economic colonialism, the plunder of other people’s resources, the devastation of our common home.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared them with all according to each one’s need” (Acts 2:44-45). The ideal of the first Christian community seems so far removed from today’s reality! To make migration a truly free choice, we must strive to ensure everyone a fair share of the common good, respect for fundamental rights and access to integral human development. This is the only way to offer everyone the opportunity to live with dignity and to fulfill themselves personally and as a family. It is clear that the main task lies with the countries of origin and their leaders, who are called upon to exercise a good policy, transparent, honest, far-sighted and at the service of all, in particular the most vulnerable. But they must be enabled to do so, without being deprived of their natural and human resources and without outside interference aimed at favoring the interests of the few. And when circumstances make it possible to choose whether to emigrate or stay, care must still be taken that this choice is enlightened and considered, to prevent so many men, women and children from falling victim to hazardous illusions or unscrupulous traffickers.
“In this jubilee year you will each return to your patrimony” (Lv 25, 13). The celebration of the jubilee for the people of Israel represented an act of collective justice: everyone could “return to their initial situation, with the cancellation of all debts, the return of land and the possibility of enjoying their own freedom to the members of the people of God” (2). As we approach the Jubilee of 2025, it is good to remember this aspect of the Jubilee celebrations. A joint effort by each country and the international community is necessary to guarantee everyone the right not to emigrate, that is to say the possibility of living in peace and dignity in their own land. It is a right which has not yet been codified, but which is of fundamental importance, the guarantee of which must be understood as a co-responsibility of all States with regard to a common good which transcends borders. national. Indeed, since world resources are not unlimited, the development of the economically poorest countries depends on the ability to share that can be created between all countries. Until this right is guaranteed – and there is still a long way to go – many will still have to leave in search of a better life.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me; I was naked, and you clothed me; I was ill, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me! (Mt 25, 35-36). These words exhort us to recognize in the migrant not only a brother or a sister in need, but also Christ himself who knocks at our door. This is why, in working to ensure that all migration is the fruit of a free choice, we are called to have the greatest respect for the dignity of each migrant. This means accompanying and managing flows in the best possible way, building bridges not walls, widening channels for safe and regular migration. Wherever we decide to build our future, in the country where we were born or elsewhere, the important thing is that there is always a community ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinction and without leaving nobody aside.
The synodal journey that we have undertaken as Church leads us to see in the most vulnerable people – and among them many migrants and refugees – special traveling companions, to be loved and cared for as brothers and sisters. Only by walking together can we go far and reach the common goal of our journey.
God, Almighty Father
give us the grace to commit ourselves with ardor
in favor of justice, solidarity and peace,
so that all your children may be assured
the freedom to choose to emigrate or stay.
Give us the courage to denounce
all the horrors of our world,
to fight against all injustice
that disfigures the beauty of your creatures
and the harmony of our common home.
Support us with the strength of your Spirit,
so that we can show your tenderness
to every migrant you place on our route
and spread in hearts and in all walks of life
the culture of encounter and protection.