During his weekly audience on September 27, Pope Francis will kick off a two-year “Share the Journey” campaign aimed to encourage Catholics to “encounter” migrants and refugees. In response, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is calling for a National Week of Prayer and Action, scheduled from October 7-13.
The new campaign is focused on providing practical ways for Catholics to break down barriers of fear and build bridges with migrants and refugees.
Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the USCCB are part of a global network of organizations participating in the campaign organized by Caritas Internationalis.
Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationalis, said the primary purpose of the campaign is to encourage a return to the study of scripture, “where God always had a soft spot in his heart for the most vulnerable.”
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Tagle said “Through this campaign we hope to correct some negative myths about migrants and migration and also to address some of the roots of forced migration.”
The cardinal pointed out that the campaign of action and awareness-raising will give a human face to migrants, as opposed to seeing them as mere numbers and statistics.
“If we do not address this humanitarian crisis with the help of all governments and communities we will see generations of people with their hopes of a future destroyed,” said Tagle.
As a part of the global collective efforts, the participating U.S. organizations have launched a website https://www.sharejourney.org to provide access to ideas and tools to further participation in the campaign.
Among the initiatives are new prayers for the faithful to recite collectively during Mass each week, homily resources for priests, social media tools, volunteer opportunities, and educational resources aimed at sharing stories of migrants and refugees.
The campaign seeks to highlight both international and domestic efforts, such as the plight of Syrian refugees, DACA recipients fearing deportation, and asylum seekers in Egypt.
Throughout his papacy, Francis has made the cause of refugees and migrants one of special concern to him. His first trip outside Rome as pope was a day trip to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, where he celebrated mass to memorialize the thousands of refugees that had died there trying to reach Europe.
In his homily, the pope criticized the “global indifference” towards the plight of migrants and refugees.
Just last week Francis sent a letter to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as they marked the centennial of the death of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago last week.
The Italian born Mother Cabrini, as she is widely known, founded the missionary congregation in 1880 in support of immigrants moving to the United States from Italy.
“The great migrations underway today need guidance filled with love and intelligence similar to what characterizes the Cabrinian charism,” he wrote.
The National Week of Prayer and Action comes at a time when many leaders of the U.S. Church have clashed with the Trump administration over its policies toward migrants and refugees.
Earlier this month, the administration announced that it would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA, which provides protection from deportation for qualified immigrants. This decision prompted widespread outrage among members of the U.S. church hierarchy.
In the coming days, the president is also expected to set a ceiling on the number of refugees the U.S. will accept. Administration officials have suggested a limit of 50,000, while the USCCB is advocating for at least 75,000 to be welcomed.
In announcing the new campaign, the USCCB said “In the U.S., we must always remember that we are a nation of migrants and refugees, many of whom fled religious persecution.
“As a Church, we will continue to stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters because for us this is not a political issue, it’s a human issue,” they declared.