Pope Francis has likened the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to the millions of migrants today who are forced to leave homelands for a better life. Or just for survival.
In his Christmas Eve remarks, Pope Francis said he hoped no one would feel “there is no room for them on this Earth”.
The Pontiff celebrated late evening Christmas vigil Mass in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica, telling the faithful that the “simple story” of Jesus’ birth in a manger changed “our history forever. Everything that night became a source of hope”.
Noting that Mary and Joseph arrived in a land “where there was no place for them,” Pope Francis drew parallels to the current global situation where around 66 million are displaced, according to UNHCR figures.
“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary,” he said in his homily.
“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.”
“In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many this departure can only have one name: survival,” the Pope said.
Referring to the King of Judea who was depicted as a tyrant in the New Testament, Pope Francis continued, saying some migrants are “surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood”.
The Pope has made concern for economic migrants, war refugees and others on society’s margins a central plank of his papacy.
Referring to Jesus as the Child of Bethlehem, the Pope said that God “invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors”.
“Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity.”
The Pope expressed hope that people see Jesus in “all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives”.
At midday Monday (European time), tradition calls for Pope Francis to deliver the Christmas Day message “urbi et orbi” – Latin for “to the city and to the world” – a speech often seen as a review of world events and conflicts.