Pope’s Message for Migrants Day echoes ‘Love The Stranger’

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Pope Francis has released his message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which focuses on the theme, “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay.” The Church observes the day on the last Sunday of September, which this year falls on 24 September 2023.

The theme, and indeed the Holy Father’s message, echoes many of the principles found in the Bishops’ document on refugees and migrants published earlier in 2023 – Love the Stranger.

You can read the Pope’s full message here.

Vatican News has produced a feature on Pope Francis’ message:

In his message, the Holy Father recognises the migratory flows of our times are produced by a complex and varied phenomenon that, to be properly understood, “require a careful analysis of every aspect of its different stages, from departure to arrival, including the possibility of return.”To contribute to this effort, the Pope said he devoted this year’s Message “to the freedom that should always mark the decision to leave one’s native land.”

‘Free to Leave, Free to Stay’

“Free to leave, free to stay,” the Bishop of Rome recalled, was the title of an initiative of solidarity promoted several years ago by the Italian Episcopal Conference (C.E.I) “as a concrete response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration movements.”

“From attentive listening to the Particular Churches, I have come to see that ensuring that that freedom is a widely shared pastoral concern.”

Read about the right to migrate in our publication Love the Stranger.

Read about the right to flourish in one’s homeland in Love the Stranger.

Holy Family’s forced flight

The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, the Pope highlighted, was not the result of a free decision, nor were many of the migrations that marked the history of the people of Israel.

“The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not.”

“Conflicts, natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land,” the Pope observed, “is forcing millions of persons to leave.” Fear, desperation, and poverty, he noted, often prompt migrants to search for a better future.

Shared commitment required

Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration, the Pope said, calls for “shared commitment on the part of all,” and one where we ask not only what we can do, but what we need to stop doing.

“We need to make every effort to halt the arms race, economic colonialism, the plundering of other people’s resources, and the devastation of our common home.”

To make migration a choice that is truly free, the Pope said, “efforts must be made to ensure to everyone an equal share in the common good, respect for his or her fundamental rights, and access to an integral human development.”

Only in this way will we be able to offer to each person the possibility of a dignified and fulfilling life, whether individually or within families.

Read about this shared commitment in the section ‘a global perspective‘ in Love the Stranger.

Protecting the vulnerable

“Clearly, the principal responsibility,” the Pope said, “falls to the countries of origin and their leaders, who are called to practice a good politics – one that is transparent, honest, farsighted, and at the service of all, especially those most vulnerable.”

“Where circumstances make possible a decision either to migrate or to stay,” the Pope added, “there is a need to ensure that the decision be well informed and carefully considered, in order to avoid great numbers of men, women and children falling victim to perilous illusions or unscrupulous traffickers”.

“Until this right is guaranteed – and here we are speaking of a long process – many people will still have to emigrate in order to seek a better life.”

Read about the human trafficking and slavery dimension in Love the Stranger.

Christ knocks at our door

Pope Francis recalled that in migrants, we are not only to see a brother or sister in difficulty, “but Christ Himself, who knocks at our door.”

“Consequently, even as we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision,” he said, “we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant; this entails accompanying and managing waves of migration as best we can, constructing bridges and not walls, expanding channels for a safe and regular migration.”

A community ready to welcome

“In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.”

Only by walking together, Pope Francis said, will we be able to go far and reach the common goal of our journey.


The Holy Father concluded his message with the following prayer:

God, Father Almighty,
grant us the grace to work tirelessly
for justice, solidarity, and peace,
so that all Your children may enjoy
the freedom to choose whether to migrate or to stay.

Grant us the courage to denounce
all the horrors of our world,
and to combat every injustice
that mars the beauty of Your children
and the harmony of our common home.

Sustain us by the power of Your Spirit,
so that we can reflect Your tender love
to every migrant whom You place in our path,
and to spread in hearts and in every situation
the culture of encounter and of care.