Pope Francis: OFW Contribution to Societies ‘Often Neglected’
To judge by his public statements, it could be said that overseas Filipino workers are close to Pope Francis’ heart, and that he is fully aware of their sacrifices in leaving their families back home in search for greener pastures.
In his homily during the Mass he officiated at the Manila Cathedral on Friday, the visiting pontiff noted that “Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary.”
“This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential,” said Pope Francis, who will be in the Philippines from January 15 to 19 for a state and apostolic visit.
In his speech at Malacañang during his courtesy call on President Benigno Aquino III also on Friday, Pope Francis lamented that the “real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live” is “oft neglected.”
At a press conference aboard the plane that was carrying him to Manila on Thursday, Pope Francis recalled meeting several Filipinos during a recent Mass at Casa Santa Marta in Vatican.
“There were about 50 of them. I stayed with them and they told me how they left their county to look for a better life, leaving behind mom, dad and children,” he said in Italian.
His pro-OFW statements, meanwhile, resonated well with migrant rights advocates.
Garry Martinez of Migrante International, an alliance of overseas Filipinos and their families, thanked the Pope for hearing their cries and “speaking in behalf of the 15 million overseas Filipinos all over the world who are being neglected, abused and exploited and abandoned by the Aquino government.”
“Filipinos all over the world are overjoyed and empowered to further fight for our rights and to struggle for genuine social justice so that our common endeavors may be realized,” he said in a statement.
Martinez expressed hope that the Pope’s statement will “open new doors and networks among churches and their brethren for the promotion and protection of the rights of Filipino migrants and their families around the world.”