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Christmas 2023: Finding peace through dialogue and human dignity

The birth of Jesus is the most powerful sign and message of hope in a world darkened by the shadows of fear and uncertainty. For Christmas 2023, Vatican Radio has asked religious leaders and heads of Christian charitable organizations for their reflections on the theme, “The Lord’s birth is the birth of peace.” Today’s Message comes from Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission.
Listen to Msgr Vitillo's Christmas Message

Christmas Message of Monsignor Robert Vitillo

Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission

I deeply believe that Christ is our peace, and yet there are so many people who are living without peace and struggling with that.

This year I traveled twice to Colombia, and we met at the border with bishops from both sides of the border of Ecuador and then also Colombia and Venezuela. And on the way to Ecuador, we watched so many people walking over the mountains, old people, disabled people, pregnant women, and women carrying children, and men trying to drag whatever possessions they could bring with them.

And that makes me think now at this time of the year of the Spanish and Latin American tradition of Las Posadas, where people in a village in Spain and throughout Latin America gather together and go knocking on the doors of different people in the village. And one after another, they're rejected, just like Mary and Joseph were rejected. But then finally one family, a designated family, opens the door and all of the people who have been processing together come in and they pray and they celebrate together.

I think that's something that we need to remember, that Jesus and Mary were homeless. And not only did they stay homeless on the night of Jesus' birth, but they soon became refugees themselves because of Herod's threats against Jesus. And so we need to see that Jesus came in a situation of suffering, of evil, and yet He brought us light and hope and peace.

And I find hope and peace in so many refugees who hold on to the dignity that God gave them and continue the struggle until they and their children are able to live a dignified life.

Venezuelan migrants walking through the forest near the border between Colombia and Ecuador
Venezuelan migrants walking through the forest near the border between Colombia and Ecuador

And what are your hopes looking into next year...?

Well, certainly I hope for peace. And yet there are so many situations in this world that peace doesn't seem possible, but I believe that God will help us find that peace if we could only learn to dialogue with each other and to respect each other's dignity.

At the same time, I hope that our organization, the International Catholic Migration Commission, can continue to bring dignity to people and begin to fill their material needs and their emotional needs through mental health counseling and services that we sponsor in many parts of the world.

And then also their pastoral needs, their spiritual hunger to hold on to their belief in God and to keep on hoping that God will help them make their lives better.

Venezuelan migrants walking through the forest near the border between Colombia and Ecuador
Venezuelan migrants walking through the forest near the border between Colombia and Ecuador

Lastly, if there were an appeal you could make...?

Well, again, I think I have to say the appeal is for peace, for dialogue. I see so many countries closing the door on any dialogue.

I spent a great deal of time in Ukraine during these past two years since the second invasion of Ukraine. And it hurts so much to see people continuing to suffer, to be displaced. Six million people in the country are displaced, in addition to another 7 million people of Ukraine, refugees in other countries.

So I hope that we could come to peace and that we could learn to respect each other and also learn how to forgive.

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25 December 2023, 11:03