In his final general audience of 2021, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on St. Joseph, presenting him to the faithful in the Paul VI Hall as a persecuted and courageous migrant, focusing on the Holy Family’s journey known as “the flight into Egypt. (vatican photo)

The Holy Father underscored how “the family of Nazareth suffered such humiliation and experienced first-hand the precariousness, fear and pain of having to leave their homeland. Today so many of our brothers and sisters are still forced to experience the same injustice and suffering. The cause is almost always the arrogance and violence of the powerful. This was also the case for Jesus.”

“King Herod learns from the Magi of the birth of the “King of the Jews”, and the news shocks him,” said Francis. Feeling insecure and threatened, “he conceived a wicked plan: to kill all the children in Bethlehem under the age of two years, which was the period of time, according to the calculations of the Magi, in which Jesus was born.”

Once again, however, an angel appears to Joseph and orders him “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

So many today, noted the Pope, feel this impulse within: “Let’s flee, let’s flee, because there is danger here.”

The Holy Father explained that “the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt saves Jesus, but unfortunately it does not prevent Herod from carrying out his massacre. We are thus faced with two opposing personalities: on the one hand, Herod with his ferocity, and on the other hand, Joseph with his care and courage.

Herod was a ruthlessly cruel man, “the symbol of many tyrants of yesteryear and of today. And for them, for these tyrants, people do not count; power is what counts, and if they need space for power, they do away with people. And this happens today: we do not need to look at ancient history, it happens today.”

Living according to Herod’s outlook makes us tyrants, said the Pope. This “is an attitude to which we can all fall prey, every time we try to dispel our fears with arrogance, even if only verbal, or made up of small abuses intended to mortify those close to us. We too have in our heart the possibility of becoming little Herods.”

However, said Francis, “Joseph is the opposite of Herod: first of all, he is “a just man”, and Herod is a dictator. Furthermore, he proves he is courageous in following the Angel’s command. One can imagine the vicissitudes he had to face during the long and dangerous journey and the difficulties involved in staying in a foreign country, with another language: many difficulties.

“Joseph’s courage emerges also at the moment of his return, when, reassured by the Angel, he overcomes his understandable fears and settles with Mary and Jesus in Nazareth.

Francis then explained that, “it is a common misconception to consider courage as the exclusive virtue of the hero. In reality, the daily life of every person requires courage. Our way of living – yours, mine, everyone’s: one cannot live without courage, the courage to face each days’ difficulties.”

He said, “Courage is synonymous with fortitude, which together with justice, prudence and temperance is part of the group of human virtues known as ‘cardinal virtues’,”

The Holy Father concluding by stating that “the lesson Joseph leaves us with today is this: life always holds adversities in store for us, this is true, in the face of which we may also feel threatened and afraid. But it is not by bringing out the worst in ourselves, as Herod does, that we can overcome certain moments, but rather by acting like Joseph, who reacts to fear with the courage to trust in God’s Providence.”

He had special words for migrants and all the persecuted, for victims of adverse circumstances, for the many people who are victims of wars or want to flee from their homeland but cannot, for those seek freedom and “end up on the street or in the sea.”

“Migration today is a reality to which we cannot close our eyes. It is a social scandal of humanity.”


A press release today from the section that deals with migrants and refugees of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development announced that a QR code has been installed on the “Angels Unawares” sculpture in St. Peter’s Square to inform people about the sculpture and Pope Francis’ teaching on migrants and refugees.

“Dear pilgrims and tourists: the Vatican invites you not just to pass by…”

This sculpture was inaugurated by Pope Francis in September 2019 during the celebration of the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Now, people can learn more about this massive sculpture by Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz thanks to a small plaque with a QR code that directs visitors to angelsunawares.org, the site that explains the sculpture.

Scanned by a mobile phone, the QR code brings you to the website, available in six languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Italian).

Cardinal Michael Czerny, interim prefect of the dicastery upon Cardinal Turkson’s resignation being accepted by the Pope on December 23, said in the press release “We have decided to incorporate cultural information and Church teachings from recent years to help all tourists and visitors at the Vatican to become pilgrims, too.”

“Angels Unawares,” explains the note, “depicts a very diverse crowd of people, from the Holy Family to victims of modern day slavery. From the center arise a pair of angel wings, illustrating the presence of the sacred. The sculpture is inspired by a biblical passage: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”