Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay – 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees

World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2023

24 September: World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The Church has been celebrating this day since 1914. It is always an occasion for her to express her concern for various vulnerable people, who have had to leave their homes for one reason or another; it is also an occasion to pray for them as they face many challenges.

For us, members and partners of the Society of Jesus, this is an important day. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is at the heart of our social apostolate. We are actively involved in all continents in accompanying, serving and defending the rights of migrants, particularly refugees. Each year, the WDMR is celebrated on the last Sunday of September; JRS and the Society of Jesus as a whole invite us to pray and commit ourselves to the tens of millions of people forced to move and who are looking for new horizons.

Let us be guided by the words of Pope Francis in his message to us this year on the theme: “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay”.


Photo by JRS.

“I have chosen to devote the Message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the freedom that should always mark the decision to leave one’s native land. “Free to leave, free to stay” was the title of an initiative of solidarity promoted several years ago by the Italian Episcopal Conference as a concrete response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration movements. From attentive listening to the Particular Churches, I have come to see that ensuring that that freedom is a widely shared pastoral concern.

Joint efforts are needed by individual countries and the international community to ensure that all enjoy the right not to be forced to emigrate, in other words, the chance to live in peace and with dignity in one’s own country. This right has yet to be codified, but it is one of fundamental importance, and its protection must be seen as a shared responsibility on the part of all States with respect to a common good that transcends national borders.


Photo by Don Doll SJ.

Indeed, since the world’s resources are not unlimited, the development of the economically poorer countries depends on the capacity for sharing that we can manage to generate among all countries. Until this right is guaranteed - and here we are speaking of a long process - many people will still have to emigrate in order to seek a better life.

As we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision, we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant; this entails accompanying and managing waves of migration as best we can, constructing bridges and not walls, expanding channels for a safe and regular migration. In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.”

Pope Francis’ message

Read Pope Francis’ full message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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