Pope Francis established his concern for the plight of migrants and refugees on his very first trip outside of Rome after his election. On the Island of Lampedusa, where he said Mass in memory of the thousands who have died at sea, he deplored the “culture of indifference” and asked, “Has any of us wept because of this situation.... Have any of us wept?” His Lampedusa sermon is among the many texts featured A Stranger and You Welcomed Me: A Call to Mercy and Solidarity with Migrants and Refugees. For Pope Francis this is not simply one among many issues. It goes straight to the core of the Gospel: Jesus calls us to recognize the “other,” the least among us, as a brother, a sister—as a child of God like ourselves. Cardinal Joseph Tobin in his Foreword points out clearly what is at stake: “Refugees and migrants risk losing their lives. The rest of us could lose our souls.”
Of course, the Pope’s focus on the plight of migrants and refugees has a poignant relevance in our own country, with an administration obsessed with “criminal aliens,” intent on building a wall, and a policy of separating young children from their parents at the border leaving hundreds of families shattered. The Pope’s words of two years ago remain apposite: “A person who thinks only about building walls . . . and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel.”
In this context, another new title, Blessed Are the Refugees: Beatitudes of Immigrant Children, is particularly timely. Scott Rose, Leo J. O’Donovan, SJ, and the Staff of Catholic Charities Esperanza Center in Baltimore, relate the stories of children and young people who have fled Central America alone to escape violence and desperate poverty. Each of the stories, based on one of the beatitudes, puts a human face on the issue of immigration. They help us see the Gospel story that is being enacted at our border.
In The Compassion Connection: Recovering Our Original Oneness, Catherine T. Nerney, a Sister of St. Joseph, invites us to tear down walls of fear, certainty, and privilege, and to surrender to God’s compassionate heart as it beats in our broken world. As Phyllis Zagano notes, “She challenges us to a contemplative view of others and of ourselves that will allow us to share in the compassion connection our world so dearly needs.”
Finally, Jack Jezreel shares a powerful vision in A New Way to Be Church: Parish Renewal from the Outside In. Drawing in part on Pope Francis’s call to “go out to the margins,” as well as his own experience as the originator of the popular JustFaith parish program, Jack presents an inspiring game plan for church renewal. Promoting an outward, mission-oriented identity for the parish, he presents a hopeful image of a church that knows how to connect faith, compassion, and justice.
May the Gospel call to mercy and solidarity overcome the culture of indifference.
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