Message of the 15th General Synod to the whole Passionist Family
Jesus Suffering in the Refugee and the Migrant
During these days, the members of the 15th General Synod of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ have been conscious of the plight of refugees and migrants in today’s world. The scenes on television of large numbers of displaced people arriving in Europe from Syria and Iraq remind us of the reality of the suffering of the millions of people in the Middle East, in Africa and in other regions, who are forced to leave their homes because of war and violence, poverty and hunger, and the absence of the basic requirements for human existence.
The appeals made by Pope Francis invite us to respond, as communities and individuals, to this great crisis of our time. In his message for the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Pope writes: “Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself. Many institutions, associations, movements and groups, diocesan, national and international organizations are experiencing the wonder and joy of the feast of encounter, sharing and solidarity. They have heard the voice of Jesus Christ: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’ (Rev 3:20).”
The majority of refugees settle in a country near their homeland. A much smaller number make the long and dangerous journey to distant lands where often they are not welcomed. For most people, their greatest desire is to return home when circumstances will permit them to do so. Often when they arrive in a new country, they are blamed for their situation by people they encounter. In the message quoted above, Pope Francis goes on to say: “Yet there continue to be debates about the conditions and limits to be set for the reception of migrants, not only on the level of national policies, but also in some parish communities whose traditional tranquillity seems to be threatened. Faced with these issues, how can the Church fail to be inspired by the example and words of Jesus Christ? The answer of the Gospel is mercy.”
Conscious of the needs of refugees and migrants, many of our Passionist brothers and sisters and other members of the Passionist family have ministered in the past, and are ministering today, to these victims of violence and poverty, devoting themselves to welcoming Christ who “stands at the door and knocks”. The needs of those who arrive in a new country as refugees are many and various. Initially it can be the need for food, clothing and shelter. Learning a new language and adapting to the food and customs of the country can be difficult. Access to healthcare, social services and legal advice are among the needs of refugees and migrants. Integration into a new community is not easy, but the Church is not limited by national or cultural borders; we know that we all belong to the one family of God.
Remembering the words of the Rule of St Paul of the Cross that “the love of God is very ingenious, and is proved not so much by words as by the deeds and examples of the lovers” (Rule, XVI), we encourage all our communities to examine what they can do to support those who arrive in their country or region without the basic necessities of life. Working in harmony the local Church and the Episcopal Conference, and with humanitarian organisations, each community should seek concrete ways in which to respond to this great need. Our Constitutions tell us: “In a spirit of faith and brotherly love, we seek to discern the signs of the times, following the example of Saint Paul of the Cross, who saw ‘the name of Jesus written on the foreheads of the poor’.” (Passionist Constitutions, 72) On this feast of St Paul of the Cross, we pray that the whole Passionist family may respond in love to these challenging words of our Founder.