Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has issued a call to create a culture of encounter, and to look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others around us. In the homily given at his first Pentecost as pope, he emphasized the importance of encounter in the Christian faith: "For me, this word is very important - encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others."
Too often in our contemporary culture, we fail to encounter other people as persons - especially those not close to us - and instead look at them as "others" or render them invisible. This is particularly true in our attitudes towards migrants and refugees. We do not take the time to engage migrants in a meaningful way, as fellow children of God, but remain aloof to their presence and suspicious of their intentions.
On Sept. 27, Pope Francis launched a global campaign to support migrants around the world and invited all of us to take part in it. Through this campaign, our Church hopes to dispel widespread fear of newcomers and to raise awareness of why so many people are compelled to leave their homes at this time in history. We want to inspire communities to build relationships with refugees and immigrants, and to love their neighbors in the U.S. and around the world in a variety of ways.
Pope Francis is being joined by bishops across the U.S. and around the world in launching a global campaign called "Share the Journey" to support our brothers and sisters who have fled their homes seeking a decent and safe life for their families. This historic campaign will respond to some of the most desperate of God's children — and needs your participation and inspiration.
Here in the U.S., the bishops, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities have joined together and have developed a campaign and website called "Love Your Neighbor" (www.loveyourneighbor.us). At this site, you can read stories of our brothers and sisters who have had to leave their homes to flee war, violence, oppression, hunger, drought or poverty and understand some of the reasons for migration.
You can also learn about the Church's teaching on immigrants and refugees and about our biblical call to make them strangers no longer.
At www.loveyourneighbor.us, there is also a toolkit for the Week of Prayer and Action that is being held from Oct. 7-13. There will be activities and prayers around the diocese, and perhaps even in your own parish. Even if your parish is not doing anything during this week, there are resources on that site for you to use at home, or in your prayer group, or with any organization you belong to in your parish.
You can help mobilize at this pivotal moment through prayers and acts of compassion and support, shaping conversations and actions to answer the Gospel call to love our neighbors.
Together, you and Pope Francis can lead the world in helping migrants and refugees.
Deacon Don Weigel is the associate public policy coordinator at Catholic Charities of Buffalo and is a Global Fellow with Catholic Relief Services.