Pope Francis appealed for better treatment of child-migrants on Sunday, January 15. Speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus with him, the Holy Father renewed his call for prayerful and concrete solidarity with minors forced to flee their homelands – especially for the children and adolescents forced to flee on their own, without the company of parents or older relatives.
“It is necessary to take every possible measure to ensure protection and defense to migrant children,” Pope Francis said, “as well as their integration,” into host societies. “These, our brothers and sisters, especially if unaccompanied, are exposed to many dangers,” the Pope said – dangers that include being taken and sold into slavery – often sexual slavery.
January 15 is the 103rd iteration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which this year is focused particularly on the plight of the youngest migrants under the theme: Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceles.
Pope Francis offered special greetings in this regard to the representatives of the many different ethnic communities present in the city and in St. Peter’s Square for the occasion. “Dear friends, I hope that you are able to live peacefully in the places that welcome you,” the Holy Father said, “respecting their laws and traditions and, at the same time, maintaining the values of your cultures of origin.” The Pope went on to say, “The encounter of different cultures is always an enrichment for everyone.”
Offering thanks to the Migrantes office of the Diocese of Rome and those who work with migrants to welcome them and accompany them in their difficulties, and encouraging everyone so committed to continue in their work, Pope Francis commended the example of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of migrants, who passed into eternal life 100 years ago this year. “This courageous sister dedicated her life to bringing the love of Christ to those who were far from home and family,” he said, “Her witness,” said Pope Francis, “helps us to take care of the brother from a far-off land, in whom Jesus is present, often suffering, rejected and humiliated.”