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Pope Francis Christian Unity Hospitality Migrants 22.01.20


Pope Francis  - Christian Unity - Hospitality - Migrants - 22.01.20


Pope Francis  22.01.20   General Audience     Pope VI Audience Hall        Catechesis on Christian Unity      Acts 28: 2 

Pope Francis Christian Unity 22.01.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's catechesis is harmonised with the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians. This year's theme, which is that of hospitality, was developed by the communities of Malta and Gozo, starting from the passage of the Acts of the Apostles that tells of the hospitality reserved by the inhabitants of Malta to St Paul and his fellow travellers, who were shipwrecked together with him. I referred to just this episode in my catechesis of two weeks ago.

So let us start from the dramatic experience of that shipwreck. The ship in which Paul was travelling was at the mercy of the elements. They had been at sea for fourteen days, adrift, and since neither the sun nor the stars are visible, the seafarers felt disoriented, lost. Beneath them the sea is striking violently against the ship and they fear that it will break under the force of the waves. From above they are lashed by the wind and rain. The strength of the sea and the storm is terribly powerful and indifferent to the fate of the seafarers: there were more than 260 people!

But Paul who knows that is not like this, speaks. His faith tells him that his life is in the hands of God, who rose Jesus from the dead, and who called him, Paul, to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. His faith also tells him that God, according to what Jesus has revealed, is a loving Father. Therefore Paul turns to his fellow travellers and, inspired by faith, announces to them that God will not allow a hair of their head to be lost.

This prophecy comes true when the ship runs aground on the coast of Malta and all of the passengers reach the mainland safely. And there they experience something new. In contrast to the brutal violence of the stormy sea, they receive the testimony of the "rare humanity" of the inhabitants of the island. These people, foreign to them, are attentive to their needs. They light a fire to warm them up, and give them shelter from the rain and food. Even though they have not yet received the Good News of Christ, they show God's love in concrete acts of kindness. In fact, spontaneous hospitality and thoughtful gestures communicate something about God's love. And the hospitality of the Maltese islanders is repaid by the miracles of healing that God works through Paul on the island. So, if the people of Malta were a sign of God's Providence for the Apostle, he too witnessed God's merciful love for them.

Dear ones, hospitality is important; and it is also an important ecumenical virtue. First of all, it means acknowledging that other Christians are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We're brothers. Someone will tell you: "But that is Protestant, the orthodox one ..." Yes, but we are brothers in Christ. It is not an one-way act of generosity, because when we give hospitality to other Christians we welcome them as a gift that is given to us. Like the Maltese - these good Maltese - we are rewarded, because we receive what the Holy Spirit has sown in these brothers and sisters of ours, and this becomes a gift for us too, because the Holy Spirit also sows his graces everywhere. Welcoming Christians of another tradition means firstly showing God's love to them, because they are children of God – our brothers – and also means welcoming what God has accomplished in their lives. Ecumenical hospitality requires a willingness to listen to others, paying attention to their personal stories of faith and the history of their community, communities of faith with another tradition other than our own. Ecumenical hospitality involves the desire to know the experience that other Christians have of God and the expectation of receiving the spiritual gifts that come with it. And this is a grace, discovering this is a grace. I think of the past, my land for example. When some evangelical missionaries came, a small group of Catholics went to burn their tents. This is not: it is not Christian. We are brothers, we are all brothers and we have to give hospitality with each other.

Today, the sea on which Paul and his companions were shipwrecked is once again a dangerous place for the lives of other seafarers. All over the world, migrant men and women face risky journeys to escape violence, to escape war, to escape poverty. As Paul and his companions experience indifference, the hostility of the desert, of rivers, of the seas... So many times they don't let them land in the ports. But, unfortunately, they sometimes also encounter much worse hostility from men. They are exploited by criminal traffickers: today! They are treated as numbers and as a threat by some rulers: today! Sometimes inhospitality rejects them like a wave back to the poverty or the dangers from which they have fled.

We, as Christians, must work together to show migrants the love of God revealed by Jesus Christ. We can and must testify that there is not only hostility and indifference, but that every person is precious to God and loved by Him. The divisions that still exist between us prevent us from being fully the sign of God's love. Working together to live ecumenical hospitality, especially towards those whose lives are most vulnerable, will make us all Christians – Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians – better human beings, better disciples and a Christian people that is more united. It will bring us ever closer to unity, which is God's will for us.