This photo, taken at the beginning of his pontificate - and before the era of social distancing - was taken during the first visit of Pope Francis to the Centro Astalli in Rome, the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) antenna in Italy. We all know how much the fate of refugees has been and still is a great concern for Francis. He has visited refugee camps on numerous occasions as proof of his concern.
Two weeks ago, the director of the Centro Astalli, Fr. Camillo Ripamonti, had the surprise of receiving a letter from the Pope. Pope Francis thanked the Social Center for sending him a copy of its annual report for 2020. Considering the number of documents that are sent to the Holy Father, the fact that he took the time not only to look at the report but also to write a letter about it is a strong testimony to the Pope’s appreciation of the work of JRS.
Pope Francis wrote: “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to you, your staff and the volunteers for the courage with which you are addressing the ‘challenge’ of migration, especially at this delicate time for the right of asylum, as thousands of people are fleeing war, persecution and serious humanitarian crises. May your example inspire in society a renewed commitment to a genuine culture of hospitality and solidarity.
“My thoughts also go to the refugees whom you welcome with fraternal love: I am spiritually close to all of them in prayer and affection and I urge them to have confidence and hope in a world of peace, justice and fraternity among peoples.”