VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis used strong words to criticize the mistreatment and abandonment of migrants in his homily on Sunday (Oct. 10) during a mass where he canonized Italian Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, officially making a saint the priest known as the ‘Father of Migrants.’
“The exclusion of migrants is scandalous!” the pope said, speaking off the cuff. “Worse yet, the exclusion of migrants is criminal, it lets them die before our eyes.”
Francis noted especially the drama of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 3,000 migrants died during their perilous journey toward Europe in 2021, twice as many as the previous year, according to a report by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Not opening the doors to migrants is “disgusting, sinful and criminal,” the pope continued, underlining that often they are sent back to migrant camps where they are “exploited and sold as slaves.” Francis urged believers to follow the vision of Scalabrini, for “a world and a Church without barriers, where no one was a foreigner.”
Francis’ homily asked faithful about their commitment to welcoming others, leaving the question hanging.
“Let us ask ourselves if we are really communities truly open and inclusive of all,” he said, adding that part of his synod on synodality — a massive, three-year consultation of Catholic faithful in the church — focuses on reaching out and listening to those who are often at the margins.
“I am troubled when I see Christian communities that divide the world into the good and the bad, saints and sinners. This makes them feel superior to others and excludes so many people whom God wants to embrace,” he said, lamenting that the church “is still marred by many forms of inequality and marginalization.”
The synod on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” will conclude with a summit of bishops at the Vatican next year to discuss the future of the church, taking into account the calls for inclusion advocated by many lay faithful.
The pope then pivoted to “tormented Ukraine,” where the war with Russia has led to new migration flows of Ukrainian citizens. He recalled the role played by his predecessor Pope John XXIII in mediating dialogue between Russia and the United States during the crisis at the Bay of Pigs in 1962, where a nuclear war threatened the world.
“Why don’t we learn from history?” he asked. “Even at that moment, there were conflicts and huge tensions, but the way of peace was chosen.”