~ by Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times
Pope Francis has always urged compassion and charity toward the refugees of the world, but, during a special Mass on the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he unveiled a monument to migration in St. Peter’s Square as an homage to the displaced.
The work, “Angels Unaware” by the Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz, depicts 140 migrants and refugees from various historical periods traveling on a boat, and includes indigenous people, the Virgin Mary and Joseph, Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany and those from war-torn countries. The sculpture was requested by the Vatican’s Office of Migrants and Refugees and funded by the Rudolph P. Bratty Family Foundation
Pope Francis said that the statue had been inspired by a passage in “Letters to the Hebrew,” from the New Testament: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
The pope said he wanted the statue in St. Peter’s Square “so that all will be reminded of the evangelical challenge of hospitality.”
In his message, Francis said that it was “the poorest of the poor and the most disadvantaged who pay the price” of wars, injustice, economic and social imbalances, both local and global.
Migration has become a flash point around the world in recent years, as millions of people have been displaced by wars in Syria and Afghanistan and economic deprivation in Africa, many seeking a better life in Europe.
Immigration has spurred a bitter backlash as nations seeks to put up fences and walls, and it has prompted debate in the United States over how to handle asylum seekers from Central America. In Asia, the oppression and dispersion of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has become a humanitarian crisis.
Francis has emerged as a champion of refugees and migrants. Soon after his election in 2013, he denounced the “globalization of indifference”. Since the European migrant crisis of 2015, the pontiff has consistently promoted the need to welcome refugees, who he believes have been exploited by nationalists. ~ with thanks to Nancy Golen and Sr. Cathy Fedewa, CSFN, Cabrini Retreat Center