Pope's plea for mercy for migrants

30,000 celebrated Mass with Pope Francis in the Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, across the border with Mexico
30,000 celebrated Mass with Pope Francis in the Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, across the border with Mexico

Pope Francis has celebrated his final Mass in Mexico and has highlighted the plight of thousands of migrants – many of whom face enormous difficulties in their quest for better lives and others who have died in the process of trying. He preached at Mexico's northern border with the United States, and appealed for governments to open their hearts, if not their borders, to the “human tragedy that is forced migration”. 

On his arrival at Ciudad Juarez to celebrate Mass, Pope Francis knelt by a giant great black cross planted high by the banks of the Rio Grande, on the border with the USA. “It was a moving moment in this place by the chain link fence where so many have lost their lives attempting to cross over,” says Veronica Scaribrick of Vatican Radio. “And the Pope symbolically blessed a pair of worn shoes and a pair of worn sandals placed there for the occasion. And then stood for a moment looking out towards the United States where the crowds pressed against the chain link fence waved from across the river.”

In his homily, Pope Francis highlighted the plight of thousands of migrants who reach the border by train or on foot, journeying for hundreds of kilometres across mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones, describing each step as “a journey laden with grave injustices … the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human beings,” he said.

Poverty, violence and tragedy

“The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today,” Pope Francis told the congregation gathered on both sides of the border. Mass was being celebrated with 200,000 in the fairground of Juárez City while a further 30,000 participated through a broadcast in a football stadium just across the border in the West Texas city of El Paso.

“This crisis which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families,” the Pope went on.  “They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organisations.  Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest.  Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure these forms of violence.  Injustice is radicalised in the young; they are ‘cannon fodder’, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs, not to mention the tragic predicament of the many women whose lives have been unjustly taken.”

Pope Francis described the workers in organisations that support refugees as “prophets of mercy”, saying: “They are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens its arms and sustains” who are “on the front lines, often risking their own lives.  By their very lives they are prophets of mercy”. He concluded his final homily in Mexico with a plea for mercy, asking God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, with hearts “open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women.  No more death!  No more exploitation!  There is still time to change, there is still a way out and a chance, time to implore the mercy of God."