‘Each migrant and refugee is a human being,’ affirmed Bishop Paul McAleenan in his homily for the Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday 27th September in Westminster Cathedral.
He invited those gathered in the cathedral and watching the live stream ‘not to judge but to be more aware, to listen more deeply and attentively’.
He reminded the congregation that ‘there are many reasons why people leave their homeland or move to another place within it: persecution, violence, war, hunger, environmental degradation.’
‘There are those whose means of livelihood have been destroyed,’ he said. ‘No matter how hard they try they can no longer make their living from the sea or the land; to remain is not an option.
‘Such migration is of course connected to a bigger problem which affects us all: climate change. In his writings Pope Francis equates the cry of the earth with the cry of the poor. Both are connected; in being attentive to one we listen to both.’
Recalling his visit to refugees in Calais some years ago, he spoke of a group of young men from Eritrea and South Sudan who invited the visitors to take their places closer to the fire on a cold day: ‘Despite their experiences of violence, danger, rejection, a journey across land and sea of thousands of miles, they retained their humanity and gift of hospitality, and invited us into the warmth they had made.
‘Such experiences remind us of the truth of the words of Pope Francis when he said “every migrant has a name, a face and a story”. Each migrant and refugee is a human individual, not to be left outside and cold and hungry, but invited into the warmth through first and most importantly recognising their humanity.’
He invited the congregation to recognise our ‘common humanity’. He said that the restrictions imposed by the pandemic on our ability to gather together for Mass ‘speak of our own vulnerability, our fragility of uncertainty. In these circumstances we can if we wish identify with migrants and refugees who long for a brighter future, just as we do, and strive not to lose hope in the midst of worries, fears and hostility.’
Migrants and refugees, he said, ‘do not move empty handed. Materially they have little, though they have gifts to share and a contribution to make.’ He encouraged us not to overlook these treasures that migrants bring.
Earlier in the month, Bishop Paul visited Dover to meet charity workers and volunteers helping refugees and to pray at a monument erected in memory of those who have died making the Channel crossing.
Recently he hosted this video conversation with four guests who work to help refugees meet the challenges they face on a daily basis.