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“The signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of ‘the other,’ the unknown, the marginalized, the foreigner,” and thus many migrants seeking a better life end up as recipients of this meanness, says Pope Francis in his 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message. (The day is marked September 29.)

The Holy Father warned that when we allow fears and doubts to “condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even – racist” – there is a serious problem. For “in this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself; it deprives me of an opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

This wonderful idea of actually encountering the Lord, and all others, is one of Pope Francis’ major themes. He is trying to inspire us to build not personal walls, nor national walls, but instead a “culture of encounter.” 

There are many lies that have been spread about migrants and refugees; lies that they are murderers, rapists and criminals of all sorts. But numerous studies point to the contrary.

The vast majority are good decent human beings who pay taxes while enjoying virtually no benefits. And they are working at jobs most citizens will not do – like the back-breaking work of picking our vegetables and fruits, washing dishes and landscaping. Furthermore, they add fresh vitality to our towns, cities and parishes. They need us and we need them! This is what Pope Francis’ “culture of encounter” is all about.

“The progress of our peoples” said the pope “depends above all on our openness to being touched and moved by those who knock at our door. Their faces shatter and debunk all those false idols that can take over and enslave our lives; idols that promise an illusory and momentary happiness blind to the lives and sufferings of others.”

Instead of building Pope Francis’ welcoming “culture of encounter,” several European countries including Bulgaria, Hungry, Slovenia, Macedonia, Austria and France (funded by the U.K.) have built barriers to keep out people who are fleeing armed conflicts and terrible poverty (see:  

And in the U.S., the Trump administration’s determination to lengthen the wall at the Mexican border and his policy of “zero-tolerance” – stepped-up apprehension and detention of migrants/refugees often fleeing armed conflict and drug gang violence, mass assembly-line criminal court trials, jail sentences and deportation back to the violence refugees were fleeing – is causing untold suffering.   

I have been to the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona, and have touched “The Wall” – the approximately 25-foot-high steel barrier blocking Mexicans from entering the U.S. It looks and feels unholy. Thousands of refugees and migrants have died trying to walk far around the wall and through the unforgiving Arizona Sonoran desert.

Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy for the Catholic-run Kino Border Initiative, located near the border in Nogales, Mexico (see:, told me asylum seekers are turned back when they seek to turn themselves into Customs and Border Protection at U.S. ports of entry, and have to wait for many weeks or months before they have the opportunity to even ask for asylum. 

Please prayerfully read the Holy Father’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees message (see: It will very likely inspire you to stand against the meanness – and stand with our desperate brothers and sisters who are knocking at our nations’ doors begging for Christian kindness.

Comments from readers

Jorge Barbontin - 09/25/2019 06:48 PM
Robert - I will pray for you that our Lord may soften your heart. I agree with the argument, people should wait in line but unfortunately, the entire system has been usurped by people with other agendas with viewpoints of the "other", not in keeping with our Catholic faith in my personal view. We need a holistic approach that is not even being discussed. The link below describes how our legal immigration system has been hijacked. I would encourage you to look at it. Respectfully
Charles - 09/24/2019 10:37 PM
Hello Tony. I wish to respond to your article. I've read Pope Francis' World Day of Migrants letter that you provided in the link. Much of what Pope Francis indicates is true, that our advanced economies have fueled a growth of individualism, greed and neglect of the poor including migrants and refugees. But in order to understand where Pope Francis is going on this, clearly, I agree with Robert that our Pope, the hierarchy and many of the overall Catholic population do not examine the proper ways of immigration to the United States. But I wish to say that when migration or immigration overwhelms a particular nation or region, then the question has to be asked, what or really, who as persons and/or groups are causing mass migration of persons to flee to our country and other nations and why they're doing this ruining millions of lives? Ultimately, there's got to be the spiritual warfare in all this; the attack on the human family is what we are seeing; poverty, migration, low wages etc,. I would therefore, suggest an economic system most Catholics do not know about that can help. I have replied to posts before in regards to economics from a Catholic perspective. I have suggested Distributism, or the economic concept suggested by Pope Leo XIII, GK Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc. It's about the widespread use of productive private property and more ownership of it. If governments want to value their citizens, then they need to focus on more domestic economies thereby reducing the problems of poverty and migration but rediscovery of the dignity of the human person and family. Easier said then done, Migration is nothing new, it is always part of mankind. Even St. Joseph had to take the baby Jesus and with Mary to Egypt to escape from King Herod. Lastly, I would suggest that Catholics pray for Pope Francis to change his way of thinking and consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as well as telling us Catholics to repent and amend our lives.
HECTOR GONZALEZ - 09/24/2019 10:12 PM
people coming from outside a society are always rejected (consciously or unconsciously) by the native people, because the migrant people are different, speaks and think in a different way, and we do not want to be disturbed in our daily life and work. It is a "natural" way of behaving. The Rhine and the Danube were the borders of the Roman Empire when our ancestor crossed the border and Europe was born. Indians from North America and South America witnessed the same episode of being invaded by people from Europe. With a calmed soul we have to find solution to the same situation in our present World. Do not believe that by closing the door the problem is over. We are facing a Historical change in Societies. The South World is knocking at our doors. We need great souls not petits find a common policy to a common situation. A new World is at the edge of being born.
Dan Gorman - 09/23/2019 02:08 PM
I wonder how many undocumented immigrants Pope Francis would welcome into Vatican City? Or how many Church facilities in Rome have been opened to asylum seeking refuges? Whatever the character of the immigrants, open boarders are a prescription for chaos and the ultimate disappearance of a nation that has been more welcoming and generous to immigrants than any nation in the world. Legal immigration and proven need for asylum are essential to any union that calls itself a nation.
Robert Gonzalez - 09/23/2019 12:14 PM
As the son of immigrants from Europe and South America who came to the USA in the 20's and the husband of a wife who came to the USA in 1961 as a refugee from Communist Cuba (all of them entered legally and all became citizens of the USA), I am very aware of the plight of those who would like to benefit from the freedom and opportunities offered by our very unique and wonderful country. I agree with the condemnation of meanness that is expressed by too many of our vocal citizens. However, what I fail to hear from our Church and our fellow Catholics is an understanding that there is a proper way to seek entry into our country. I compare those who try to enter by rushing the various weak points in our boarders, climbing over fences and walls, to anyone who tries to jump the line of those who wait patiently to enter the correct way. If you were in a long line at the DMV or at your local supermarket and a bunch of people decide that they do not want to wait, but simply push their way into the head of the line, would you be willing to stand by and defend that type of rudeness and call for others to be tolerant and permissive. I really doubt it! There are thousands of immigrants who are waiting patiently for permission to enter. Why should they be punished by the acts of those who do not wish to wait? We must have strong borders or we will not have a strong country. Secondly, how would you feel if you were away on vacation only to return home to find that strangers had moved into your home through a poorly locked door, not only moved in but have added themselves to your medical insurance policy, enrolled their children in your local schools and eaten your food. Please do not confuse Christian charity with tolerance for unlawfulness. This response is NOT a defense of meanness, it is a call for clarity of the misleading contention that our current government is anti-immigrant. We have always been and will always be welcoming of those who legally immigrate to our country.

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