Vatican cardinal Marc Ouellet has said migrants and refugees are “messengers of God” through which the Almighty “reminds us all of humanity’s common destiny on the way to the City of God”.

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Cardinal Ouellet made the remarks at a Vigil Mass Monday evening for the international pilgrimage to the Fátima shrine, in Portugal.

The pilgrimage this year to the place where three young shepherds had a series of visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917 had for its theme: “Time of grace and mercy: giving thanks for pilgrimage in the Church”.

The event overlapped this year with a special migrant and refugee pilgrimage coinciding with the Church’s 47th National Migrations Week.

The thousands of pilgrims from as far away as Vietnam or Senegal also gathered to remember the beginning of the construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961.


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In his homily Monday evening, Cardinal Ouellet – prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in the Vatican – called on pilgrims to show compassion to migrants.

The message took on particular relevance as the governments of Italy, Malta and Spain continue to block their ports to more than 500 refugees stranded on rescue ships in the Mediterranean.

The cardinal called for solidarity with those Pope Francis calls “the least” in our world today.

“The least ones who are tortured, abused and raped in detention camps”, said Ouellet, quoting the Pope.

Ouellet denounced that migrants and refugees are too often “discarded, abused and despised, just as the Crucified was”.

The cardinal prayed that they be “comforted, consoled and lifted up” and that they find “in the ups-and-downs of their journeys the witness of charity of Christians and non-Christians”.


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At the principal pilgrimage Mass Tuesday, Cardinal Ouellet doubled down on his defence of migrants and refugees.

He criticised those “many” politicians who, despite Pope Francis’ repeated calls to protect the world’s most vulnerable people, “are closing themselves off more and more to dialogue, compassion and peace”.

“Today we think particularly of all the migrants and refugees who travel the ways of our planet in search of a better earthly homeland, but also in search of the homeland that God prepares for us in the Heavenly Jerusalem”, Ouellet recalled.

The Virgin’s message at Fátima “is and remains peace” and this message of peace is today “more relevant than ever”, the cardinal added.

Ouellet lamented that “heavy clouds brood over the planet and we do not know what tomorrow holds”, adding that many today “feel utterly powerless at this crossroads in history”.

But, he added, “we are certain that Our Lord has been working in a unique way in history since his mother spoke the Fiat to the Angel’s announcement”, for which reason the task of Christians is to commit to being “active apostles in the service of the Prince of Peace and his Mother, the Queen of Peace”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.