Refugees. Right now, across the globe, millions of people live outside their home country, driven out by political turmoil, natural disaster or other circumstances; many find themselves displaced right within their own homeland.
Perhaps the moments that linger most in my memory from recent mission visits relate to the time I spent in several refugee camps in Nepal. Some two decades ago, many people with Nepalese roots were forced out of Bhutan, even if they were born there. Eventually, these refugees settled in the eastern part of Nepal. I had the great privilege of visiting each of the seven refugee camps during my time there. The people, poor but rich in their generous, loving hearts, welcomed me inside their homes. I spoke with schoolchildren, and witnessed the compassionate outreach of local priests and Religious among these men, women and children who have suffered and sacrificed so much.
In early January, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, a most missionary feast as we witness the nations of the world, exemplified in the Three Kings, coming to adore the Christ Child, Savior of the world. Not long after the visit of the Magi, our Lord too became a refugee, fleeing, with Mary and Joseph, to Egypt, to escape the wrath of Herod. Throughout the Missions today, in Nepal and in so many places, the Church, with your help, serves the needs of refugees. My prayer during my visits in Nepal was, as it is now, for these displaced peoples and for those who reach out to them with the love and compassion of the Savior.
The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerful missionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.