Pope Francis’ address to US Congress on 24 September 2015 covered a broad range of social justice issues from migration to interfaith dialogue to peace building and action against climate change. In doing so he drew on a range of Catholic Social Teaching principles. For Reflection: How do you see the links between freedom, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity? What are some ways in which love of the common good could be better expressed in the political life of your country? For Reflection: The political community is one of the great themes in Catholic Social Teaching. As Pope Francis’ address to US Congress explains, the very purpose of the state is to foster, organise and defend the common good. Would you consider entering political life in order to promote the common good? How do you encourage politicians to remain focused on the common good? For Reflection Pope Francis’ address to US Congress highlighted the importance of religious liberty, and the positive role of the voice of faith in society. But it also acknowledges the reality of violence perpetrated in the name of religion, of different forms of religious fundamentalism, and the simplistic reductionism “which sees only good or evil.” Can you think of examples of how the voice of faith is playing a positive role in your society? In what ways does your society respect, or fail to respect, the religious liberty of all? For Reflection: Pope Francis urged members of Congress to draw on the Golden Rule – treat others as you would have them treat you – in responding to the global refugee crisis and also to the movement of people from Latin and Central America into the USA seeking safety and decent life. As the son of immigrants, he appealed to the people of the USA not to forget their own history of migration. He also recalled the violent and unjust treatment of the First Peoples in this process and urged that such “sins and errors” not be repeated. How well is your community responding to the global refugee crisis? What might help members of your community to see refugees, asylum seekers and migrants as people who want only what we all want for our children? For Reflection: Do you find it difficult to believe that people who have committed serious crimes can change? Does your own experience of mercy and forgiveness encourage you to hope that others too can experience such hope and transformation? For Reflection: Pope Francis’ address to US Congress called for a continuing effort to address poverty and hunger globally. He reiterated many of the concerns he expressed in the encyclical Laudato Si’, especially the need for sustainable development and action on climate change. Who are the people in your community who are inspired by their faith to take action for social justice and to care of the earth? How are poverty and care for creation intertwined in your country?
View Bishop Peter Comensoli’s video message to the people of the Broken Bay Diocese in Australia for Migrant & Refugee Sunday 2015. Social Spirituality’s Sandie Cornish helps out. She spells out the calls to offer friendship, be informed, and promote social inclusion a little more in the text below. We may not be able to solve all the injustices and hardships suffered by migrants and refugees – that requires international cooperation – but we can all do something. Offer Friendship These days sharp distinctions between migrants and refugees often fail to reflect the realties of people’s lives. Migration is more of a spectrum than a series of distinct categories. People move with different degrees of choice. It is a spectrum of force and freedom, desperation and aspiration. Many people on the move experience both push and pull factors. At one end of the spectrum are migrants who freely chose to move to enjoy a better life, and who would be able to choose to return to their home country in safety. At the other end of the spectrum are the forcibly displaced who have no choice but to move in order to seek safety and freedom. Even those who move through choice and in freedom face difficulties in adjusting to a new home. Remembering such experiences in our own lives and those of our extended families helps us to be conscious of the importance of offering friendship and hospitality. Those who have moved through necessity, often with little control over the circumstances of their movement or opportunity to prepare, need our practical solidarity even more. Will Jesus say to us that he was a stranger and we welcomed him? Be Informed The reality of ‘mixed flows’ of migrants and asylum seekers has triggered public discussion of who should be welcomed. Fear and misinformation can feed harsh reactions against those coming to us looking for safety and freedom. If we are to follow the one who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” it is important to seek the truth and to live in it. It isn’t hard to be informed rather than simply accepting claims made about asylum seekers. The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, and the Refugee Council of Australia are reliable sources of accurate information. Promote Inclusion The global movement of people leads us to reflect on what kind of society we want to be, and what kind of world we want to live in. An ethic of solidarity, and of communion calls us beyond defensive, self-interested, and excluding responses to people on the move. If we are to accept Jesus’ offer of life to the full, then we need to accept and include each other. If we become a local community in which all are included and all are valued, we will more readily welcome those who come to us in need. We are, after all, members of one human family. We can promote social inclusion. That’s the policy language for what Pope Francis describes in his message for Migrant & Refugee Sunday 2015 as a world “in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable.” We can support policies and projects that ensure a place for everyone and we can let our local councilors, and state and federal politicians know that this is important to us.
Bishop Gerard Hanna has criticised the Australian government’s efforts to resettle in Cambodia those asylum seekers found to be refugees after having been intercepted at sea by Australia and sent to have their claims assessed in Nauru. “If the Australian Government is serious about expanding resettlement opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, negotiations should commence with nations who have the resources to support refugees, such as Singapore, Japan, Korea and New Zealand,” he said. Bishop Hanna is the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Delegate for Migrants and Refugees.
For three days in July 2013, a 12-minute video depicting the lives and struggles of refugees was projected on the façade of the church of the Gesu in Rome. It is the mother church of the Jesuits and a place which has traditionally opened its doors to asylum seekers, in continuation with the ancient vocation of sanctuary. Is this something your parish could do on Migrant & Refugee Sunday?