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Pope Francis addressed again the “lamentable situation” of migrants and refugees, calling global Christians to commit to concrete action “at every stage of the migratory experience.”

Though published Aug. 21, his statement was written on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15) and noted a connection between Mary and migrants: “The Holy Mother of God herself experienced the hardship of exile (Matthew 2:13-15).”

It will serve as the pontiff’s official message for the 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Jan. 14).

The pope’s message set forth four verbs that should guide Christians in responding to the needs of global migrants: welcome, protect, promote and integrate – a reiteration of key elements from his mid-February address delivered during the International Forum on Migration and Peace in Rome.

Welcoming migrants requires “broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally,” he emphasized. This necessitates “a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families.”

“To defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status” is central to the imperative to protect the vulnerable.

“Promoting essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings, in all the dimensions which constitute the humanity intended by the Creator,” Francis explained.

The final verb, integrate, is not synonymous with assimilation, the pope stated – quoting from John Paul II’s 2005 Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Rather, it requires fostering a “culture of encounter in every way possible – by increasing opportunities for intercultural exchange, documenting and disseminating best practices of integration, and developing programmes to prepare local communities for integration processes.”

Citing Leviticus 19:34 and Matthew 25:35-43, Francis stated, “This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return.”

He added, “This is a great responsibility, which the church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.”

The full text of the papal address is available here.

Editor’s note: A video interview addressing the distinction between migrants and refugees is available here.

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