The Public Forum/El Foro Publico
September 4, 2015
Pope of St. Francis of Assisi Cares About Migration and Jobs
Immigration policy isn’t just about how to keep people out. It should also be about how to bring people in. Pope Francis born of immigrants to the New World selected for his first journey outside the Vatican to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa where thousands of immigrants seeking refuge corpses have washed up. He was appalled that few seemed to care about the tragedy. He spoke on an altar which had been a capsized boat. The mass he celebrated was a Penitential Eucharist, one that begs for forgiveness. During his sermon he asked “Who is responsible for this blood.” He spoke of Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan, comparing us (he always includes himself) to the Levite and priest who pass by. “We see our brother half dead on the side of the road, than go on our way”. He denounced the “culture of comfort, which makes us insensitive to the cries of other people.” He said people live now in “soap bubbles” and have “globalized indifference.”
The first Jesuit pope said “ask for the grace to cry for our indifference, to cry for the cruelty in the world that is in us, that is in those who anonymously make decisions that produce dramas like these.” He then went out in a boat and laid a wreath on the sea.
There was a reason why the fate of the migrants stuck him “like a painful thorn in my heart.” Years ago Pope Francis grandparents together with their six children including the Pope’s father Mario, bought steerage-class tickets on the Principessa Mafalalda the most luxurious ship of her day. It was Italy’s Titanic. Five hundred passengers, almost all in steerage-class drowned. Pope Francis family’s lucky escape has become part of Pope Francis family’s legend.
A few months later he went to another island and celebrated Mass at Our Lady of Bonaria shrine, the capital of his native Argentina is named after. There he spoke to jobless miners, telling them he knew what it was like to suffer from family financial crisis. He had learned “where there is no work, there is no dignity.” Pope Francis will address a Joint Session of Congress in Washington D.C. on September 24. Immigration policy isn’t just about how to keep people out. It should also be about how to bring people in. Migration and jobs are issues the Pope of St Francis of Assisi cares about.