Pope Francis Recalls Jesus' Words "I was a stranger and you welcomed me"....and Explains "It takes time, it takes a lot of patience, it takes above all a love made of..." at Migrant Encounter in Malta


(2-3 APRIL 2022)


Pope Francis visited migrants at the John XXIII Peace Lab Centre during his final event in Malta. On Sunday, April 4th, 2022, Pope Francis visited Malta's "Pope John XIII Peace Laboratory," founded in 1971 by Franciscan friar Dionysius Mintoff. It was opened following an appeal made by Pope John XXIII, who called for the world to reflect on peace. Franciscan Fr. Dionysius Mintoff, is the founder of the Pope John XXIII Peace Lab. The Peace Lab runs an adult education programme and assists people of all backgrounds and cultures. The 91-year-old founder, Father Mintoff, gave some introductory words before Pope Francis' address.


“John XXIII Peace Lab” Centre for Migrants in Hal Far
Sunday, 3 April 2022


Dear brothers and sisters!

I greet you all with affection; I am happy to conclude my visit to Malta by staying with you for a while. I thank Father Dionisio for welcoming him; and above all I am grateful to Daniel and Siriman for their testimonies: you have opened your heart and your life to us, and at the same time you have become the spokesperson for so many brothers and sisters, forced to leave their homeland to seek a safe refuge.

As I said a few months ago in Lesbos, "I am here to tell you that I am close to you ... I am here to see your faces, to look you in the eyes"

Speech in Mytilene , December 5, 2021). From the day I went to Lampedusa, I have never forgotten you. I always carry you in my heart and you are always present in my prayers.

In this meeting with you migrants, the meaning of the motto of my trip to Malta emerges fully. It is a quotation from the Acts of the Apostles that says: "They treated us with rare humanity" (28,2). It refers to the way in which the Maltese welcomed the Apostle Paul and all those who were shipwrecked with him near the Island. They treated them " with rare humanity ". Not only with humanity, but with an uncommon humanity, a special concern, which Saint Luke wanted to immortalize in the book of Acts. I wish Malta to always treat those who land on its shores in this way, to truly be a "safe haven" for them.

That of the shipwreck is an experience that thousands of men, women and children have had in recent years in the Mediterranean. And unfortunately for many of them it was tragic. Just yesterday news broke of a rescue that took place off the coast of Libya, of only four migrants from a boat that contained about ninety. Let us pray for these brothers of ours who have died in our Mediterranean Sea. And we also pray to be saved from another shipwreck that takes place while these events are happening: it is the shipwreck of civilization , which threatens not only the refugees, but all of us. How can we save ourselves from this shipwreck that threatens to sink the ship of our civilization? By behaving with humanityLooking at people not as numbers, but for what they are - as Siriman told us -, that is, of faces, of stories, simply men and women, brothers and sisters. And thinking that instead of that person I see on a boat or in the sea on television, or in a photo, in his place it could be me, or my son, or my daughter ... Maybe even at this moment, while we are here, some barges are crossing the sea from south to north… Let us pray for these brothers and sisters who risk their lives in the sea in search of hope. You too have lived through this drama, and you have come here.

Your stories bring to mind those of thousands and thousands of people who in recent days were forced to flee Ukraine due to that unjust and savage war. But also to those of many other men and women who, in search of a safe place, were forced to leave their home and land in Asia, Africa and the Americas, I think of the Rohingya ... my thoughts and my prayers at this moment.

Some time ago I received another testimony from your Center: the story of a young man who told the painful moment in which he had to leave his mother and his family of origin. This had moved me and made me think. But you too Daniel, you too Siriman, and each of you has lived this experience of starting by detaching yourself from your rootsIt is a tear. A tear that leaves its mark. Not just a momentary, emotional pain. It leaves a deep wound in the growth path of a young person, of a young woman. It takes time to heal this wound; it takes time and above all it takes experiences rich in humanity: meeting welcoming people who know how to listen, understand, accompany; and also being together with other travel companions, to share, to carry the weight together… This helps to heal the wounds.

I am thinking of reception centers: how important it is that they are places of humanity ! We know it's difficult, there are so many factors that fuel tension and stiffness. And yet, on every continent, there are people and communities who accept the challenge, aware that the reality of migration is a sign of the times where civilization is at stake. And for us Christians, fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus is also at stake, who said "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" ( Mt25.35). This is not done in a day! It takes time, it takes a lot of patience, it takes above all a love made of closeness, tenderness and compassion, as is the love of God for us. I think we have to say a big “thank you” to those who accepted this challenge here in Malta and created this Center. We do it with applause, all together!

Allow me, brothers and sisters, to express a dream of mine. May you migrants, after having experienced a welcome rich in humanity and fraternity, may personally become witnesses and animators of welcome and fraternity.Here and where God wills, where Providence will guide your steps. This is the dream that I wish to share with you and that I place in God's hands. Because what is impossible for us is not impossible for Him. I believe it is very important that in today's world migrants become witnesses of the human values ​​essential for a dignified life and fraternal. They are values ​​that you carry within, which belong to your roots. Once the wound of the tear, of the uprooting has healed, you can bring out this wealth that you carry within, a very precious heritage of humanity, and put it in common with the communities in which you are welcomed and in the environments where you enter. This is the way! The path of fraternity and social friendshipHere is the future of the human family in a globalized world. I am happy to be able to share this dream with you today, just as you, in your testimonials, share your dreams with me!

It seems to me that here is also the answer to the question that lies at the heart of your testimony, Siriman. You reminded us that those who have to leave their country leave with a dream in their heart : the dream of freedom and democracy. This dream collides with a harsh , often dangerous, sometimes terrible, inhuman reality. You gave voice to the suffocated appeal of millions of migrants whose fundamental rights are violated, unfortunately sometimes with the complicity of the competent authorities. And this is so, and I want to say this like this: unfortunately sometimes with the complicity of the competent authorities. And you drew attention to the key point: the dignity of the personI repeat it with your words: you are not numbers, but people in flesh and blood, faces, dreams that are sometimes broken.

From this we can and must start again: from people and their dignity. Let us not be deceived by those who say: "There is nothing to be done", "they are bigger problems than us", "I do my own business, and the others get by". No. Let's not fall into this trap. We respond to the challenge of migrants and refugees with the style of humanity , we light fires of fraternity, around which people can warm up, recover, rekindle hope. Let's strengthen the fabric of social friendship and the culture of encounter, starting from places like this, which certainly won't be perfect, but are “laboratories of peace”.

And since this Center bears the name of Pope Saint John XXIII , I like to recall what he wrote at the end of his memorable Encyclical on Peace: "Remove [the Lord] from the hearts of men what can endanger it - peace - ; and transform them into witnesses of truth, justice, brotherly love. Enlighten the leaders of peoples, so that, alongside concern for the just well-being of their citizens, they guarantee and defend the great gift of peace; may it ignite the will of all to overcome the dividing barriers, to increase the bonds of mutual charity, to understand others, to forgive those who have caused injuries; by virtue of his action, let all the peoples of the earth come together and may the much desired peace always reign and reign in them "(Pacem in terris , 91).

Dear brothers and sisters, soon, together with some of you, I will light a candle in front of the image of Our Lady. A simple gesture, but with a great meaning. In the Christian tradition, that little flame is a symbol of faith in God. And it is also a symbol of hope , a hope that Mary, our Mother, supports in the most difficult moments. It is the hope that I saw in your eyes today that has given meaning to your journey and keeps you moving forward. May Our Lady help you never to lose this hope! To her I entrust each one of you and your families, and I carry you with me in my heart and in my prayers. And you too, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!

Prayer of His Holiness Pope Francis at the Conclusion of the Meeting with Migrants

Lord God, Creator of the universe,
source of all freedom and peace,
love and fraternity,
you created us in your own image,
breathed in us the breath of life
and made us sharers in your own life of communion.
Even when we broke your covenant
you did not abandon us to the power of death,
but continued, in your infinite mercy,
to call us back to you,
to live as your sons and daughters.

Pour out upon us your Holy Spirit
and grant us a new heart,
sensitive to the pleas, often silent,
of our brothers and sisters who have lost
the warmth of their homes and homeland.
Grant that we may give them hope
by our welcome and our show of humanity.

Make us instruments of peace
and practical, fraternal love.
Free us from fear and prejudice;
enable us to share in their sufferings
and to combat injustice together,
for the growth of a world in which each person
is respected in his or her inviolable dignity,
the dignity that you, O Father, have granted us
and your Son has consecrated forever.


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