Church Worldwide: Christmas Reminds Us That Jesus was a Migrant Like Today’s Refugees, Says Pope Francis

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As Pope Francis officially opened this year’s Christmas Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, he said Jesus was a “migrant” who reminds us of the plight of today’s refugees.

Francis told donors who contributed both the Nativity set and an 82-foot tree that the story of Jesus’ birth echoes the “tragic reality of migrants on boats making their way toward Italy” from the Middle East and Africa today.

“The sad experience of these brothers and sisters recalls that of baby Jesus, who at the time of his birth could not find a place to stay when he was born in Bethlehem,” the pope said during a brief address in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. “He was then taken to Egypt to escape threats from Herod.”

The pope has spoken out in support of refugees many times and said there were many stories of migration in the Bible.

“Today the current economic crisis unfortunately fosters attitudes of closure instead of welcome,” he said during a weekly audience at the Vatican in October.

“In some parts of the world, walls and barriers are being built. It appears that the silent work of men and women who, in different ways, do what they can to help and assist refugees and migrants is being drowned out by the noise made by those who give voice to an instinctive egoism,” he said.

This year’s Christmas tree is an evergreen from northern Italy. The Nativity scene was donated by the government of the Mediterranean island nation of Malta and that country’s Catholic bishops.

It was produced by Maltese artist Manwel Grech and features 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese costumes as well as a replica of a typical Maltese boat.

The pope invited those who visit this Nativity scene to rediscover its “symbolic value,” which he called “a message of fraternity, of sharing, of welcome and solidarity.”

Francis also thanked the children who decorated the tree with the support of a foundation that organizes ceramic therapy workshops in Italian hospitals for children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses.

The pontiff told them that “the multicolored ornaments you have created represent the values of life, love, and peace that Christ’s Christmas proposes to us anew each year.”

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The Pope, like many others, fails to distinguish between "refugees" and "migrants" (those who simply choose to leave their country for another).  But yet the distinction is critical to an adequate analysys by any government, and is why the US and all other governments have separate and different rules for the two categories.

As to "building walls," which of course references nothing more than a sovereign nation controlling its borders in a meaningful way, I wonder whether the Vatican controls its borders, or residency or citizenship status in any way?  Bet so.

Easy to take ambiguous political pokes, with clear allusions to support for open borders.  I'll take the Pope as a serious political commentator when his and his City's action's practice his words.