Pope: It's a sin if fear makes us hostile to migrants

Faithful hold flags as Pope Francis celebrates a Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A family walks on the altar in front of Pope Francis on the occasion of a Mass on the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis delivers his blessing during a Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis leaves after celebrating Mass at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. Pope Francis says while fear of migrants is “legitimate’ it’s a sin if that causes hostility. Francis invited migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, newly arrived immigrants and second-generation immigrant families to a special Mass he celebrated Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A man waves a Chilean flag as Pope Francis recites the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. Pope Francis says while fear of migrants is “legitimate’ it’s a sin if that causes hostility. Francis invited migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, newly arrived immigrants and second-generation immigrant families to a special Mass he celebrated Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A family walks on the altar in front of Pope Francis on the occasion of a Mass on the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Faithful dance prior to the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. Pope Francis says while fear of migrants is “legitimate’ it’s a sin if that causes hostility. Francis invited migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, newly arrived immigrants and second-generation immigrant families to a special Mass he celebrated Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Stella, a ten-month toddler daughter of a Syrian refugee waves an Italian flag before a Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Migrants and refugees walk past Pope Francis during a Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Migrants and refugees walk past Pope Francis during a Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Women greets Pope Francis during the offertory on the occasion of a Mass on the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Faithful hold flags as Pope Francis celebrates a Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff as he celebrates Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Faithful dance prior to the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. Pope Francis says while fear of migrants is “legitimate’ it’s a sin if that causes hostility. Francis invited migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, newly arrived immigrants and second-generation immigrant families to a special Mass he celebrated Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A family walks on the altar in front of Pope Francis on the occasion of a Mass on the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A family walks past Pope Francis on the occasion of a Mass on the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A family walks on the altar in front of Pope Francis on the occasion of a Mass on the world day for migrants and refugees, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Gandi Almubayed, a Syrian refugee, holds his ten-month daughter Stella, prior to a Mass on the occasion of the world day for migrants and refugees, at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Faithful wave a Chilean flag in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. Pope Francis says while fear of migrants is “legitimate’ it’s a sin if that causes hostility. Francis invited migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, newly arrived immigrants and second-generation immigrant families to a special Mass he celebrated Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has defined hostility and rejection of refugees and migrants as sin, encouraging people to overcome their "fully comprehensible" fears that these new arrivals might "disturb the established order" of local communities.

At his invitation, several thousand migrants, refugees and immigrants from 49 countries joined Francis at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, a day the Catholic Church dedicated to the issues and contributions of those who leave homelands in hope of a better life.

New arrivals must "know and respect the laws, the culture and the traditions of the countries that take them in," he said. Local communities must "open themselves without prejudices to their rich diversity, to understand the hopes and potential of the newly arrived as well as their fears and vulnerabilities."

"It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences," Francis said.

"As a result, we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves. Local communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived with disturb the established order, will 'steal' something they have long labored to build up."

Similarly, he said, newcomers also are afraid: "of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure."

"These fears are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view," Francis continued in his homily.

"Having doubts and fears is not a sin," the pope said. "The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection."

Francis elaborated: "The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor," instead of seeing it as a "privileged opportunity" to encounter God.

In his almost five-year-old papacy, Francis has stressed the Catholic church's mission to welcome vulnerable and marginalized people. His focus comes as wealthier countries, including several European Union nations and the U.S., are intent on increasing physical or legal barriers to migrants.

Later, greeting about 25,000 people in St. Peter's Square, Francis advocated responding to the migrations that "today are a sign of our times" in four ways: "welcome, protect, promote and integrate" migrants.

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Frances D'Emilio is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio

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