The Pope has invited the world “to open eyes, ears and hands ever wider to those who suffer from hunger, injustice and violence”, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– The Jesuit Refugee Service and journalist Jesús Blasco de Avellaneda, winner of the Padre Arrupe Prize for Human Rights

Francis’ invitation was contained in a handwritten message he sent on the presentation this May 20 of the II Padre Arrupe Prize for Human Rights, awarded by the Institute for Migration Studies of the Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid.

This year the prizes – named in honour of the pioneering human rights campaigner and 28th Superior General of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe – went to the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and to 39-year-old Spanish journalist Jesús Blasco de Avellaneda.

Commenting on news of the prize, JRS international director Tom Smolich SJ said “this award that bears the name of Father Arrupe, who founded the Jesuit Refugee Service 40 years ago with an enormous vision, is a recognition of everyone who throughout these four decades served, accompanied, and advocated the cause of refugees and other forcibly displaced people, helping to make their faces visible and their voices heard”.

For his part, Blasco – who for more than twenty years has been covering immigration, human rights, international relations and crime on Spain’s African borders – acknowledged in his acceptance speech that “I don’t know if I have helped with my journalism to change the world, if I have shaken consciences, if I have softened and enlarged hearts”, but he promised to “continue forging a path in a world submerged in darkness and in a profession that is becoming more and more distorted each day”.

“I only hope that I can continue many more years in that small light that has never stopped shining in my heart, in my life and in my world”, Blasco reflected.

The Pope's handwritten message to the organisers and recipients of the Padre Arrupe prizes
The Pope’s handwritten message to the organisers and recipients of the Padre Arrupe prizes (Source: Vatican News)

– Cardinal Czerny: COVID-19 aggravates human rights abuses, acts as “amplifier” of “immoral social structures”

The Comillas Padre Arrupe prizes were presented by video link by Cardinal Michael Czerny, the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

As did the Pope in his message to the awards ceremony, Cardinal Czerny also referred to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said “not only aggravates the human rights violations that are already taking place” in society today, “but also acts as an amplifier, a magnifying glass or an X-ray that reveals the immoral social structures present in the world”.

“Today’s event takes place during Laudato si’ Week, the fifth anniversary of the encyclical”, Czerny recalled, explaining that one of the messages of that text of the Pope’s is that “human rights are the basis not only of life, life in its fullness, but also of integral ecology”.

Quoting from Laudato si’ (139), Czerny underlined that today in our world “we are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental”.

And again turning to the Pope’s encyclical, the cardinal outlined the path the world must take out of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond: that of “an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor”.

“In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters”, Czerny said, quoting from Laudato si’.

More stories on Novena on the Church and human rights:

Pope, in message for Day of Migrants: “God did not want the resources of our planet to benefit only a few. This was not the Lord’s will!”

From Pope down, Church in Italy pushes hard for mass regularisation of migrant workers “deprived of all rights”

Church, civil society actors denounce EU states using COVID-19 as “pretext” to suspend human rights of displaced people

Vatican Dicastery for Human Development denounces lack of clean water endangering “billions”

December 2019: Pope warns on migrant, human trafficking crises: “Our indifference is a sin!”

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.