Pope Francis was surely thinking of Donald Trump as he celebrated midnight mass at Vatican City last night, Trump and the right-wing anti-immigrant political forces in both the United States and throughout Europe.
Who else could his message be aimed at as he declared that faith in Christ demands that immigrants be welcomed, comparing the refugees from the war-torn Middle-East, Myanmar, Africa, Central America, and all the other places people are fleeing to find better lives for themselves and their families to the Holy Family seeking a place to stay in Bethlehem?
“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,” Francis said.
Pope Francis alluded to the shepherds who were present at Jesus’ birth according to the Bible as people similarly “forced to live on the edges of society” and vilified as foul-smelling, unclean foreigners.
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“Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared.”
The Pope made an entreaty to the world in his homily, calling for a “new social imagination … in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth.” He said that “our document of citizenship” comes from God and that respect for migrants is an integral part of Christianity.
“This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same,” Francis said.
Pope Francis made a point of also condemning the human traffickers who exploit migrants mired in desperation as the “Herods of today” who have blood on their hands, a reference to the story of the king in the Bible who ordered the killing of all of the newborn male children near Bethlehem because he was afraid that Jesus would one day steal his throne.
The Pope’s inclusionary message inspired longing in many Americans for the days when we had a President who actually recognized the moral authority of senior religious leaders and heeded their warnings. Instead, we are forced to live with a leader who lives for his own ego gratification in diametric opposition to the teachings of the man whose birthday we celebrate today.
Trump can blather on about how he alone is responsible for leading the charge “allowing” people to say “Merry Christmas” again, but his own actions make a mockery of Jesus’ message of love and acceptance of all people and his condemnation of the rich.