At the beginning of this year, in my Address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, I pointed to the tragedy of internally displaced people as one of the challenges of our contemporary world: "Situations of conflict and humanitarian emergencies, aggravated by climate change, are increasing the numbers of displaced persons and affecting people already living in a state of dire poverty. Many of the countries experiencing these situations lack adequate structures for meeting the needs of the displaced" (9 January 2020).
The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has issued the document "Pastoral Orientations on Internally Displaced People" (Vatican City, 5 May 2020), which aims to inspire and encourage the pastoral work of the Church in this specific area.
For these reasons, I have decided to devote this Message to the drama of internally displaced persons, an often unseen tragedy that the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. In fact, due to its virulence, severity and geographical extent, this crisis has impacted on many other humanitarian emergencies that affect millions of people, which has relegated to the bottom of national political agendas those urgent international efforts essential to saving lives. But "this is not a time for forgetfulness. The crisis we are facing should not make us forget the many other crises that bring suffering to so many people" (Urbi et Orbi Message, 12 April 2020).
In the light of the tragic events that have marked 2020, I would like this Message, although concerned with internally displaced persons, to embrace all those who are experiencing situations of precariousness, abandonment, marginalization and rejection as a result of COVID-19.
I would like to start with the image that inspired Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia (1 August 1952). During the flight into Egypt, the child Jesus experienced with his parents the tragic fate of the displaced and refugees, "which is marked by fear, uncertainty and unease (cf. Mt 2:13-15, 19-23). Unfortunately, in our own times, millions of families can identify with this sad reality. Almost every day the television and papers carry news of refugees fleeing from hunger, war and other grave dangers, in search of security and a dignified life for themselves and for their families" (Angelus, 29 December 2013). In each of these people, forced to flee to safety, Jesus is present as he was at the time of Herod. In the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, strangers and prisoners, we are called to see the face of Christ who pleads with us to help (cf. Mt 25:31-46). If we can recognize him in those faces, we will be the ones to thank him for having been able to meet, love and serve him in them.