2016-04-19 12:28:00

Pope Francis to Centro Astalli: 35 years of service, witness

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday delivered a video message to the administration, staff, volunteers, and guests of the Centro Astalli welcome centre for refugees in Rome, which is operated by the Society of Jesus through the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy. The Centro Astalli is marking the 35th anniversary of its founding.

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Below, please find Vatican Radio’s English translation of the Holy Father’s remarks in the video message


Dear refugees, volunteers, workers  and friends of the Centro Astalli,

During this year of Mercy, we’re marking the 35th anniversary of Jesuit Service for refugees in Italy, an activity that has been above all a walk together, as one people. And this is beautiful and just!

We must continue with courage: “I was a stranger and you invited me in” cfr Mt 25,35

I was a stranger… Each one of you refugees who knock on our doors has the face of God and is the body of Christ. Your experience of pain and hope reminds us that we are all strangers and pilgrims on this Earth, welcomed by someone with generosity and without any merit. Whosoever has fled his own land due to oppression, war,  nature defaced by pollution and by desertification, or the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources, as you have, is a brother with whom we share bread, homes and life.

Too many times you have not been welcomed: forgive the closure and indifference of our society that fears the change in lifestyle and mentality that your presence asks for. Treated as a burden, a problem, a cost, instead you are a gift. You are the testament to how our gracious and merciful God can transform the pain and injustice that you suffer into a love for all. For, each one of you can be a bridge that unites distant peoples, which makes the meeting of different cultures and religions possible, a road to rediscover our common humanity.

…and you invited me in. I was a stranger and you invited me in. Yes, the Centro Astalli is a concrete, daily example of this welcome, born of the prophetic vision of Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ. It was his dying wish, [expressed] at a refugee center in Asia. Thanks to you all, women and men, lay and religious, workers and volunteers, because in fact you show that if we walk together we are less afraid. I encourage you to continue. 35 years is only the beginning of a journey that is ever more necessary, the only way for a reconciled co-existence. Always be witnesses of the beauty of this encounter. Help our society to listen to the voice of refugees.

Continue to walk with courage by their side, go with them and be guided by them: the refugees know the roads that lead to peace because they know the acrid odor of war. 

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