April 22, 2016


All are God’s children and should share in God’s gifts

We are taught in our formative years that actions speak louder than words, and if we examine our lives, we most certainly can remember times when that phrase rang true—including the actions done by the universal shepherd of the Catholic Church during its 2,000-plus year history.

A little more than a week after the much-anticipated release of his apostolic exhortation “ ‘Amoris Laetitia’ (The Joy of Love), on Love in the Family,” Pope Francis made national headlines again on April 16 by bringing 12 Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos back to Rome with him.

The members of the three Syrian families, including six children, had all the necessary paperwork from the Greek and Italian governments in time to fly with the pope, Church officials said.

This is not the first time The Criterion has reported about Syrian families being relocated. In December, a Syrian family of four (two small children and their parents) that fled violence in their homeland was resettled in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis thanks to the efforts of the archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigration Services.

As reported on page 1 of this week’s issue, the Vatican will assume financial responsibility of the Syrian families who traveled with the pope. They will be assisted by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio.

The fact that the 12 are all Muslims did not enter into the equation, the pope told reporters on the papal flight back to Rome. “I gave priority to children of God,” he said.

The pope’s actions provided another poignant life lesson so appropriate during this Holy Year of Mercy, where, among other things, we as people of faith are asked to recalibrate our thinking and put mercy before judgment.

What Pope Francis shared on the plane ride home said as much.

“What I saw today and what you saw in that refugee camp—it makes you weep,” the pope told reporters.

“Look what I brought to show you,” the pope told them. He held up some of the drawings the children in the camp had given him. “Look at this,” he said, “this one saw a child drown.

“Really, today is a day to weep,” he said. Holding up another picture, he pointed to the top and said, “The sun is crying. If the sun is able to cry, we should be able to shed at least one tear” for those children who will carry the memory of suffering with them.

For the Syrian refugees now in Rome, the trip to a new life seemed like a “dream,” but a chapter that they were eager to begin.

When asked what he thought of the head of the Catholic Church sponsoring three Muslim refugee families, Osama, one of the adult Syrian refugees, said, “Peace has no religion. If you think about it, we are all human.

“The pope made a humanitarian gesture, and it was so moving,” he told reporters.

Nour, an engineer who studied in France and hopes eventually to return there, responded to a similar question by saying, “No other religious leader in the world helped us like the pope did.”

Her husband, Hasan, added, “The pope is an amazing, amazing person, an incredible person. Every religious person should be like the pope.

“We are Muslim and, unfortunately, our people did not deal with us like the pope did,” he said.

We have learned much from Pope Francis during the three years of his pontificate, so much in fact that we could fill pages of our publication for weeks sharing it. But one message that continues to reverberate for people of faith is this: On our journey of encountering others, as part of our mission of evangelization, we must always remember that all are God’s children and should share in God’s gifts.

—Mike Krokos

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