JAFFA - On Saturday, September 23rd, 2023, at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, the various VMAS communities gathered to celebrate the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
In Jaffa, as in the rest of the world, the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees was celebrated today. Mgr Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio to the Holy Land, presided over the Mass. Fr. Matthew Coutinho, sdb, Patriarchal Vicar for Migrants and Asylum Seekers, and Fr. Augustine, ofm, parish priest of St. Anthony of Padua, were present, as well as a number of priests.
The theme chosen this year by Pope Francis is: " Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay". He invites us to " see in those who are most vulnerable – among whom are many migrants and refugees – special companions on our way, to be loved and cared for as brothers and sisters". Likewise, Mgr Adolfo Tito Yllana reminds us that "the most important thing for everyone is to belong to the Lord, always, and to live a life full of love, service, and feast. For no matter what country we live in, we are Christians, and we belong to the Lord Jesus".
The mass was marked by songs from the DMC choir, African choir, Malayalam choir, Konkani choir, and El Shaddai. For the Prayer of the Faithful, representatives of different communities came to offer their prayers in several languages: Sinhalese, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Chinese, etc.
At the end of the ceremony, Fr. Matthew Marcel Coutinho, sdb, said: "This is a day for unity and diversity. They are all migrants from different countries, but thanks to our faith we can come together and share Jesus with others".
"This day gives us the courage to continue despite all our difficulties", he added.
Then, commenting on the uniqueness of celebrating this day in the Holy Land, "the land of Jesus Christ", Fr. Marcel said: "It is an opportunity for us to remember that also Jesus was a migrant living here and although we, the migrants, are a minority, yet we are like the yeast in the dough, as Jesus said. We carry the presence of God to others by doing very simple tasks like cleaning houses or looking after the elderly, leaving an impact on society. We try to do this with a lot of love to reflect the beauty of our Christian faith," he ended.
This celebration is an opportunity for many people to remember that they have a community, a family, in this country where they live, and on which they can rely on. Two parishioners expressed by saying: "This day means a lot to us. Due to the fact that we are far from home, we came here for greener pastures, even if our work is not easy. But once a year, when we come together as we have today, we are reminded of where we come from and why we are here. We come together as a family in Christ. We celebrate this day because we are happy to be here and connect with each other, the African community, the Indian community, etc."
A Salesian brother added: "I think it's important to celebrate this day because we all come from different countries and nations, and the Church is not just where we come from. We find a common family in this country, because, as the Bishop said, most of the time we feel alone, but in fact we're not. We are here celebrating our beautiful cultures as the body of Christ, united under a common family".