There Is a Right to Migrate and a Right Not to, Pope Says

In Message for 2004 World Day of Migrants and Refugees

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2003 ( There is a right to migrate and a right not to migrate, John Paul II says in a message written for next year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The World Day is observed on dates established by respective bishops’ conferences. On this occasion, the theme is «Migrations from the Viewpoint of Peace.»

In his message, the Pope explains that «to create concrete conditions of peace, in regard to migrants and refugees, means to commit oneself seriously to safeguarding above all the right not to migrate. … That is, to live in peace and dignity in one’s own homeland.»

He adds: «Thanks to careful local and national administration, to more equitable trade, and to solidaristic international cooperation, every country must be given the possibility to ensure for its inhabitants, in addition to freedom of expression and movement, the possibility to satisfy their fundamental needs.»

In particular, the Pope mentions «food, health, work, home, education, without which many people find themselves forced to migrate.»

The papal message also states that «the right to migrate also exists.»

«The foundation of this right,» the Pope says, quoting Nos. 30 and 33 of John XXIII’s encyclical «Mater et Magistra,» is «the universal destiny of the goods of the world.»

«Obviously, it corresponds to governments to regulate migratory currents in full respect of the dignity of persons and the needs of their families, keeping in mind the exigencies of the societies that receive the immigrants,» John Paul II writes.

«In this connection, there already are international agreements that protect those who migrate, as well as those seeking refuge or political asylum in another country,» he says. «They are agreements that can be further perfected.»

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