"Culture of Welcome" Urged for Immigrants

Cardinal Ruini Addresses Assembly of Italian Bishops

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ROME, JAN. 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).-
Cardinal Camillo Ruini urged a “culture of welcome” for immigrants, but one which is not indifferent to the cultural makeup of a territory.

Cardinal Ruini, president of the Italian bishops´ conference and the Pope´s vicar for Rome, was addressing the challenge of immigration, both legal and illegal, that must be addressed daily in Italy. The cardinal spoke Monday during the opening session of the Permanent Commission of Italian Bishops, which is being held in Rome until Thursday.

Cardinal Ruini took as his point of reference the Holy Father´s message for the World Day of Peace, in which the Pope “has reaffirmed both the value and function of the different cultural and national identities as well as the unity and continuity of the human family,” which is called to “unity in diversity,” by focusing on “reciprocal respect and dialogue among cultures, which must neither be regarded as self-sufficient and antagonistic, nor give way to risky homologizing.”

The president of the Italian bishops recalled that the Church invites us to develop “a culture of welcome, which will not cede to indifference, however, in the matter of values and must not neglect the balance of the ´cultural physiognomy´ of a specific territory.”

However, the prior condition for such a physiognomy to be preserved is the “intrinsic vitality of that culture and not the unjust veto of the rest so that they can make their own cultural requests, as long as they are not antithetical to universal ethical values,” the cardinal specified.

This is the same debate that was highlighted last September by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, the archbishop of Bologna. Cardinal Biffi´s statements, widely misinterpreted, were a call to pay attention to the need for the cultural integration of immigrants.

On that occasion, Cardinal Biffi said: “Some time ago, when speaking with a Minister, I pointed out to him that a truly secular state, which hopes to spare the Italian people many sufferings, would find it appropriate to manage immigration in a way that favors Catholics. In this case, I added, the bishops would take a position against the government, asking for greater openness. However, you who [favor laicism] should ignore our protests and look to the real good of Italy.”

Bologna´s cardinal was trying to explain that integration is easier in Italy with people who come from countries that are culturally Catholic, as opposed to those that are Islamic. The cardinal spoke of supporting a certain type of origin of the immigrants, but not of discriminating against them because of their culture or religion.

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