POPE’S MESSAGE | At audience, pope leads prayers for migrants, trafficking victims

Paul Haring | Catholic News Service
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VATICAN CITY — Marking the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave, Pope Francis urged Christians to help victims of human trafficking and migrants, especially the Rohingya people being chased from Myanmar.

For the Catholic Church, St. Bakhita's feast day, Feb. 8, is a day of prayer for victims of trafficking.

Pope Francis asked government officials around the world to "decisively combat this plague" of human trafficking, paying particular attention to trafficking in children. "Every effort must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime."

Describing St. Bakhita as a "young woman who was enslaved in Africa, exploited, humiliated," Pope Francis said she never gave up hope and, finally, she was able to migrate to Europe.

Holding up a booklet with a photograph of the Sudanese saint, who died in Italy in 1947, the pope told her story. In Europe, he said, "she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun," joining the Canossian Daughters of Charity.

"Let us pray to St. Josephine Bakhita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much," he said.

"And speaking of migrants who are exploited and chased away, I want to pray with you today in a special way for our Rohingya brothers and sisters," the pope continued. "These people, thrown out of Myanmar, move from one place to another because no one wants them."

Pope Francis told the estimated 7,000 people at his audience that the Rohingya, who are Muslim, "are good people. They are our brothers and sisters. They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, just because they want to keep their traditions and their Muslim faith."

In a report released Feb. 3, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said since October, there had been escalating violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The report cited eyewitness reports of mass gang-rape, killings — including of babies and young children — beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by the country's security forces.

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis continued to discuss the characteristics of Christian hope, which should be both tender and strong enough to support those who suffer and despair.

The Gospel does not call Christians to pity the suffering, but to have compassion, which means suffering with them, listening, encouraging and helping, the pope said.

The Gospel calls us "not to build walls, but bridges, not to repay evil with evil, but to defeat evil with goodness (and) offense with forgiveness, to live in peace with all," he said. "This is the Church. And this is what Christian hope accomplishes when it takes on the strong and, at the same time, tender features of love." 

Economy of communion offers second chances, promotes sharing

VATICAN CITY — A truly Christian approach to running a business would be modeled after the father in the Gospel story of the prodigal son by giving jobs and a second chance to those who have made mistakes, Pope Francis said.

A business plan inspired by "communion," he said, "is not blocked by the meritocracy invoked by the older son and by many who, in the name of merit, reject mercy."

Meeting Feb. 4 with hundreds of people involved in the "economy of communion" project of the Focolare Movement, Pope Francis said their business model of promoting co-responsibility, sharing profits and creating jobs can be the leaven needed to promote an economic model where "the rich know how to share their riches and the poor are called blessed."

Like the father in the Gospel story, he said, "an entrepreneur of communion is called to do everything possible so that even those who make a mistake and leave his house can hope for a job and a dignified income and not find themselves eating with the pigs," like the younger son.

Even before requiring a sharing of money, an economic and business model more in line with the Gospel requires business leaders and workers to share their time and their talent, the pope said. "Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion. It simply means giving a part of your profits, but without embracing and touching the people who are receiving those 'crumbs.'"

"In the logic of the Gospel," he said, "if one does not give everything, one does not give enough."

One cannot be a Christian if one worships idols, Pope Francis said, and "one of the most powerful idols is money."

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service 

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