World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2021
The Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees for the Bishops’ Conference has been discussing Pope Francis’ message for the forthcoming World Day of Migrants and Refugees that will be celebrated on Sunday, 26 September.
Bishop Paul McAleenan uses some of the Holy Father’s words to give some context to the theme of the day ‘Towards an ever wider ‘we”.
These poignant words can be found displayed prominently at one of our most well-known coastal borders:
“On the promenade in Dover there’s a plaque which bears some words of Pope Francis. ‘Every migrant has a name, a face, a story’. That is our starting point; and that is our conclusion.
“In our outreach to migrants and refugees, we’re not dealing with numbers or statistics, we’re dealing with people who have endured so many trials – who live day-to-day. They have known pain, persecution, war, suffering, hunger, poverty – on land and on sea.
“The message of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is an appeal to replace that suffering with a genuine respect for the dignity of migrants and refugees by going to their aid and lifting them up so that the “I” will be replaced by the “we”. And the hope is that that way will become ever wider.”
Bishop McAleenan believes Pope Francis is issuing a challenge to Catholics and wider society to rethink how they consider migrants and refugees:
“His vision requires a change of mindset and attitude. Pope Francis proposes, instead of individualism and consumerism, solidarity and fraternity. A title in one of the chapters of a letter he has written is ‘A Heart Open to the World’*. That sums up what is being put forward by the Pope to all Catholics – to be outward looking and to allow oneself to see and to be changed by the reality of the lives and circumstances of migrants and refugees.”
There are many days of prayer in the Catholic Church calendar. What can we do in our parishes to mark this day in a meaningful way?
“I would suggest that for all Catholics on this day, for migrants and refugees, one should be conscious of the humanity of their brothers and sisters and how we are united to them because of our common humanity and that we should have a lifestyle which does not endanger their circumstances but be actively promoting their dignity.”
* Fratelli tutti, Papal Encyclical Letter, October 2020
This interview features in our full section on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Other interviews will appear in this section as we approach the day itself.