This Sunday, 27 September, is the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. For more than a century now, the Catholic Church has marked this occasion as a way to draw attention to the millions of migrants and refugees who are forcibly displaced and trafficked around the world.
In his message, Pope Francis establishes that the world is seeing an increase in numbers of displaced people, and that this tragedy is one of the key social challenges facing our world. Recalling his January 2020 address to the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See, the Pope writes, ‘Situations of conflict and humanitarian emergencies, aggravated by climate change, are increasing the numbers of displaced persons and affecting people already living in a state of dire poverty. Many of the countries experiencing these situations lack adequate structures for meeting the needs of the displaced.’
But we’re not to shy away from meeting our duty of care, as Pope Francis goes on to explain that ‘displaced people offer us this opportunity to meet the Lord, “even though our eyes find it hard to recognise him: his clothing in tatters, his feet dirty, his face disfigured, his body wounded, his tongue unable to speak our language”’ (Homily, 15 February 2019).
Pope Francis calls the faithful to respond to this pastoral challenge with four verbs he listed in his message for Migrant and Refugee Sunday in 2018: Welcome, protect, promote and integrate.
In this year’s message, Pope Francis adds another six pairs of verbs by which we might frame our responses to the plight of displaced people and act.
- You have to know in order to understand.
- It is necessary to be close in order to serve.
- In order to be reconciled, we need to listen.
- In order to grow, it is necessary to share.
- We need to be involved in order to promote.
- It is necessary to cooperate in order to build.
It’s only when we know and have seen the suffering of displaced people, heard their stories and shared our resources that we can meet this challenge. And this isn’t a problem we can face individually; only when different elements of the community work together can we effectively both advocate for systemic change.
Currently, members of Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV)
and parishes across the state are making considerable efforts to assist people seeking asylum, refugees, and other migrants who hold temporary visas. Many of these people remain in harsh circumstances in detention centres, and the majority of the 115,000 living in Australian community have been deemed ineligible for any federal government support payments during COVID-19, making many at risk of homelessness and despair.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CSSV, the work of Catholic agencies has increased, especially with aid to refugee and asylum seeker communities.
The Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project (BASP)
has increasingly been helping with rent and utilities payments and the provision of emergency relief money. Currently BASP are assisting about 260 people with rent and more than that with other needs. Even with discounting what BASP are paying due to some donated housing, BASP are paying about $100,000 a month to keep people with a minimum of security. Currently, asylum seekers in Melbourne are experiencing a high level of destitution and many would be homeless without the support of groups like BASP.
Across Victoria, CatholicCare
has witnessed an increase in the amount of people with a temporary visa seeking access to Emergency Relief over the past few months, compared to last year. CatholicCare Greater Melbourne, Geelong & Gippsland also continues to provide other practical help to a number of asylum seeker families who receive supported housing as well as financial support for food, clothes and utility bills.
St Vincent de Paul Society
is assisting people seeking asylum, migrants, refugees and international students in many different ways across the state. They are paying for rent, food, bills, education and providing support through advocacy and connection. It is not just in the cities: The Mooroopna SVDP conference in northern Victoria are supporting the rent and bills of 26 families, as COVID-19 has limited work options for many who were employed in casual and precarious work.
Welcoming those seeking refuge: Message from Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Suggested Prayers of the Faithful
The following prayers have been offered for parishes to use in their liturgies this weekend:
Celebrant: God our Father, we thank you for the assurance that no one is a stranger in the kingdom you willed for all of us your children. Hear these petitions of our willingness to participate in building your kingdom here on earth.
Reader: For Francis, our Pope, in communion with the bishops shepherding our Church and for all those, lay and ordained, who minister to migrants and refugees, that accompanied by our prayers and support may tirelessly champion a culture that upholds the innate dignity of all migrants and refugees, Lord hear us.
For all our nation’s leaders and policy makers, that God grant them compassion, wisdom and guidance in their discernment so they can enact laws that ensure the greater protection of all migrants and those who need to get a fair go, Lord hear us.
For the families who are currently separated from their loved ones because of violence and poverty, that they may be comforted in knowing God will accompany them in their journey towards reunion and in finding a better home, Lord hear us.
For our community, that we may truly live out the Gospels by accepting the blessings of migrants and refugees and in manifesting that we are citizens of God’s kingdom that is borderless and welcoming, Lord hear us. For all those who have lost their life crossing the borders of hope or drowning in the oceans of our indifference, that the memory of their tragedy may call us to personal and collective responsibility and their life welcomed into eternity.
Celebrant: God of mercy and compassion, you call each and every one of us by name to accomplish a special purpose in your general plan of salvation. You invite us your children to work together for the good of all which can only happen if we truly accept and appreciate both the uniqueness and the gifts every one of us brings. Teach us to look and treat one another through the lens of mercy, compassion, love, and respect. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.