Pope Francis Prays for ‘Gift of Conversion’ at Border Mass
Hundreds of thousands of people attended the Feb. 17 liturgy, which included faithful on both sides of the border.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — At the Mexico-U.S. border town of Ciudad Juarez, Pope Francis told hundreds of thousands of people present to beg God for the “gift of tears” over the suffering of others, especially forced migration.
“Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts,” he said during the Feb. 17 Mass at Benito Juárez stadium. “No more death! No more exploitation!”
Pope Francis drew on the day’s reading from Jonah in which God calls upon the prophet to go and convert the Ninevites, whose city was “self-destructing as a result of oppression and dishonor, violence and injustice.”
“God sent him to testify to what was happening, he sent him to wake up a people intoxicated with themselves,” he said.
Jonah’s message to the Ninevites and God’s divine mercy saved the people from self-destruction, proving that “there is always the possibility of change, we still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity.”
This account presents us with the very mystery of divine mercy, the Holy Father said.
“Mercy always appeals to the latent and numbed goodness within each person. … It seeks and invites us to conversion, it invites us to repentance; it invites us to see the damage being done at every level. Mercy always pierces evil in order to transform it,” he said.
Pope Francis traveled to Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican city which borders El Paso, Texas, to celebrate Mass during the final day of his Feb. 12-17 visit to Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the Mass, which included faithful on both sides of the border.
At this place, along with many other border cities between the neighboring countries where thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans try to enter the United States, the story of the Ninevites’ conversion “echoes forcefully among us today” and invites us to conversion, Pope Francis said.
“In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy; with you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion,” he said.
“To weep over injustice, to cry over corruption, to cry over oppression,” the Pope said. “They are tears that can sensitize our gaze and our attitude hardened and especially dormant in the face of another’s suffering. They are the tears that can break us, capable of opening us to conversion.”
So often the humanitarian crisis of forced migration is measured with numbers and statistics, but in order to open our hearts to conversion, the Holy Father said, “we want to instead measure with names, stories, families.”
This journey, filled with “legal vacuums,” always “ensnares” and “destroys the poorest.”
The young are especially vulnerable in the flight of forced migration, he said calling them “cannon fodder” who are “persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs.”
He praised civil and religious organizations dedicated to “accompanying migrants” and “defending life” calling them “signs lighting the way and announcing salvation” just as Jonah did.
“By their very lives they are prophets of mercy; they are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens its arms and sustains,” Pope Francis said.
He closed urging those present to ask for God’s mercy and grace, saying that it’s not too late for conversion.
“This time for conversion, this time for salvation, is the time for mercy,” he said. “And so, let us say together in response to the suffering on so many faces: In your compassion and mercy, Lord, have pity on us ... cleanse us from our sins and create in us a pure heart, a new spirit.”