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Since 1914, the Catholic Church celebrates World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) every year on the last Sunday of September. This year, the 109th WDMR falls on Sunday, 24 September 2023, with the theme “Free To Choose Whether To Migrate Or To Stay.” The intention of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, is to encourage individuals to have a deeper reflection on “the right not to have migrated or the right to be able to remain in one’s own land.”

Pope Francis has highlighted that the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt was not a free decision, just like many migrants today. He explained that millions of people are being forced to leave their countries due to persecution, conflicts, wars, extreme poverty, natural disasters, or the inability to live a dignified and prosperous life.

It is crucial that the forced migration of many individuals should be carefully considered. The right to remain in one’s own land is fundamental - “encompassing the ability to share in the common good”, “live with dignity”, and “access sustainable development”. These rights must be guaranteed in countries of origin by the international community, as well as understanding the importance of these fundamental rights, by working to ensure that they are protected.

The Holy Father’s message emphasises the need for collective efforts by individual countries and the international community to secure the right of all individuals to live in peace and with dignity in their own country. This includes the right not to be forced to emigrate.

The Pope urges us to recognise the presence of Christ in every migrant that comes to our door. He reminds us that we must ensure that migration is always a free decision and that we must treat each and every migrant with the utmost dignity and respect. No matter where we choose to establish our future, whether it is in our home country or abroad, the crucial aspect is that there is always a community willing “to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone,” without discrimination and without exclusion.

This day is an opportunity to pray for and raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities faced by migrants and refugees on their life journey. Let us walk in solidarity and show tenderness to our migrant brothers and sisters, so that all people can flourish in their homeland.

The Holy Father ended with a prayer:

The Holy Father ended with a prayer:

God, Father almighty,

grant us the grace to work tirelessly

for justice, solidarity, and peace,

so that all your children may enjoy

the freedom to choose whether to migrate or to stay.

Grant us the courage to denounce

all the horrors of our world

and to combat every injustice

that mars the beauty of your children

and the harmony of our common home.

Sustain us by the power of your Spirit,

so that we can reflect your tender love

to every migrant whom you place in our path,

and to spread in hearts and in every situation

the culture of encounter and of care. Amen.


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