It was quite moving. On Sunday I visited Our Lady of Good Help parish, home of members the Maronite Catholic Church in Edmonton. In fact, this parish serves as the spiritual home for many Christians of Middle Eastern origin, including the countries of Syria and Iraq. During the reception following Mass, I was introduced to refugee families, who had recently been sponsored by the parish to come to Canada. I can't even imagine the hardship they've faced, so it was especially edifying to see them surrounded by a community that has made a commitment to welcome them, surround them with support, and help them start a new life.
This outreach has been undertaken by a number of parishes in this Archdiocese. I am proud of their efforts. It is a ministry of solidarity, justice, charity and mercy that is being replicated in parishes and communities throughout the country.
At the same time, much more needs to be done. The number of refugees across the globe is vast. Recently the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the refugee crisis. Entitled "I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me", it invites Catholic parishes across Canada to discern what they might be able to do in support of welcoming refugees.
Care of the refugee, which springs so clearly from the demands of the Gospel, has an impact not only upon persons and families who receive support. It also serves as a source of consolation and hope to others who are unable to leave their homeland. One of the parishioners told me today that he will be sending back to the Middle East many of the pictures that were taken at today's Mass and reception. It is a great encouragement, he told me, because those remaining in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere are given concrete assurance of the love and concern of people elsewhere. They know they are not alone, not forgotten, because they are carried in the hearts and prayers of brother and sister Christians.
My visit to the parish was also an occasion for me to share with the parishioners the statement issued at the end of the recent Synod on the Family by the participant Bishops on the situation of persecuted Christians. If you have not yet seen it, you can find it here.
There is, obviously, widespread suffering across the globe. One can easily imagine the frequent temptations to despair among those directly affected by various conflicts, or among loved ones who are anxious about them. Through actions such as the care and support of refugees that I witnessed today, people are encouraged not to give in to this temptation but to remain steadfast in hope. They are concrete signs of the mercy of God, whose love ultimately prevails over all evil.