During his Christmas Day message and blessing at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis offered a prayer that all people around the world would recognize that they are, first of all, brothers and sisters. And like the newborn Jesus, born in a manger 2,000 years ago, we are created in the image and likeness of God.
Christ’s birth, he said, proclaims that God “is a good father and we are all brothers and sisters.”
“May the little child whom we contemplate today in the manger, in the cold of the night, watch over all the children of the world, and every frail vulnerable and discarded person,” Pope Francis said.
On the same day Pope Francis offered his “Urbi Et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing, we learned about an 8-year-old Guatemalan child who died while in U.S. custody at the border. Felipe Alonzo-Gomez was detained with his father on Dec. 18 after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. It was the second death of a child refugee in the last month.
Regardless of the circumstances (U.S. Customs and Border Protection said its agents acted to assist the children and Department of Homeland Security director Kirstjen Nielsen said the tragic incidents are examples of why Central American refugees should not seek U.S. asylum en masse), the deaths of small migrant children are shameful.
Through no fault of their own, children often suffer the consequences of humanity’s brutality and sinfulness. Whether it’s the suffering of child refugees, the recruitment of child soldiers in warring nations or the trafficking of children as slaves or sex workers, the youngest among us, it seems, continue to suffer the same fate as the Holy Innocents at the hands of Herod.
Despite our many differences, we should always remember that we share a stronger family bond through our loving God, who is Father of us all.
“By his incarnation,” Pope Francis reminded us in his Christmas message, “the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages and cultures.”
January offers us opportunities to remember and pray for exploited and suffering children around the world. The U.S. Catholic Church observes National Migration Week Jan. 6-12. It’s a chance to reflect on our own migration stories.
“Regardless of where we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another,” according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Justice for Immigrants” initiative.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, observed on Jan. 11, is a chance to pray for children drawn into human trafficking. A prayer and candlelight service will be held Friday, Jan. 11, at St. Matthew Church in Allouez at 6:30 p.m. Speakers, as well as an information table, will provide details on how to help eradicate human trafficking.
Refugees, immigrants and victims of human trafficking arrive in this country willingly and unwillingly. It’s the role of people of faith, guided by Scripture and church teaching, to support them and to pray for their safety and well-being.