Pope Francis meets Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 1. (Paul Haring/Catholic News Service)
Pope Francis meets Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 1. (Paul Haring/Catholic News Service)
Everything is connected.

Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger. When we welcome the stranger — alien, migrant, refugee — we open our doors to God. In the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself. Jesus and refugees are connected.

Jesus was born as a human being. The flesh of Christ is in the flesh of refugees: their flesh is the flesh of Christ. Jesus and refugees are connected.

Jesus calls us to welcome refugees and says that when we extend a helping hand to them, we meet him face-to-face. The smallest act of opening up and giving a hand connects us with both Jesus and refugees.

The 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Jan. 14) is a reminder of this connection.

In his message for the World Day of Peace (Jan. 1), Pope Francis noted that the world now holds 22.5 million refugees. He observed that Pope Benedict XVI spoke of them as “men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace.” Perhaps simply “searching to live" would be more apt.

Refugees, according to the United Nations' criteria, are individuals who have fled their countries of origin with a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."  Refugees have suffered loss of their homes, livelihoods, possessions and oftentimes families. They come in need, hoping for welcome in a new place. They need us the church to welcome them as Christ.

The church is mother and her motherly attention is expressed with special tenderness and closeness to those who are obliged to flee their own country; those who exist between rootlessness and belonging. You and I are the church. With motherly empathy, we understand that “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others” (“Laudato Si',” 70).

Most of us approach change with skepticism. Refugees fleeing from their homes bring change to their new communities. As people of life, we receive these changes with equanimity because we know that we "must desire to break through the barriers which divide [us], to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another...” (“Pacem in Terris,” 170). We believe in the dignity of the human person and that no individual is more equal than another, including refugees.

We “learn to understand” by being committed to obtain knowledge of the events that force people to leave their homeland.

Our “mutual love” motivates us to give voice to the refugees. “One man's natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men” (“Pacem in Terris,” 68); our duty is becoming a voice for the voiceless.

As Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”

Strangers and angels, refugees and Jesus, people of life and all humanity: we are all connected.

Cato is director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace. Fr. Libra is the archdiocese’s pro-life director and pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Portland.