Migrations Seen as Opportunity for Evangelization

Joint Letter Issued by Vatican Agencies

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Church must make of migrations a vehicle for dialogue and proclamation of the Christian message, say a pair of Vatican dicasteries.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers made that point in a joint letter dated Oct. 7.

The letter, addressed to those in charge in dioceses of the pastoral care of migrants, is signed by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the congregation, and Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, president of the pontifical council.

Both acknowledge that “the present migrations are the greatest human movement of all times.”

The letter seeks to promote application of the 2004 Vatican instruction “Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi” (The Love of Christ toward Migrants), written to respond “to the new spiritual and pastoral needs of migrants.”

The cardinals encourage readers to discover “in the new document pastoral and missionary suggestions and guidelines, fruit of the universal Church’s experience, in the service of people involved in this phenomenon.”

According to the document’s data, migrations affect at least 175 million men, women, children and elderly people, “who live outside their own country of origin as economic immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers, which is equivalent to 2.9% of the world’s population.”

Missionary dimension

This migration worries pastors, “even when it is voluntary, regular or legal, but even more so when the movements are irregular, often undertaken with the help of criminal organizations,” they say.

“In her universality, but also in her local reality, the Church is called therefore to scrutinize and interpret, in the light of the Gospel, this sign of our time,” they note.

This discernment, the prelates state, should inspire “dispositions and actions, programs and structures” in the local Churches that include “the missionary dimension, communion between the Churches of origin and those of arrival, and, in addition, the ecclesial task of protecting the human person as well as the family institution affected by migration.”

The cardinals emphasize four especially “relevant” aspects.

First, the migratory experience, “despite all its difficulties, is also an occasion of new evangelization and mission, … with room moreover for interreligious dialogue,” they note.

Second, “the pastoral care of migrants stems, according to the conciliar view, from an ecclesiology of communion, which is expressed, among other things, through the dialogue between Churches of departure and arrival.”

Regarding the human rights of migrants, the Church’s social doctrine and the instruction insist that “the human being can never be degraded to an instrument, work force, merchandise or any other factor of production.”

Therefore, it is necessary to defend the rights of migrants, paying much attention “to the causes of many injustices and differences that are at the origin of migrations and of coerced moves.”

Protagonists

The last element underlined is “the socio-charitable dimension of the apostolate in the area of human migration [which] needs to be completed with a properly ecclesial and missionary, ecumenical and interreligious dimension.”

In particular, the letter calls for ensuring that Catholic migrants become protagonists in the evangelizing action of the countries of destiny and that they are not just receivers.

In this way, the cardinals conclude, “the dramatic aspect of migration” can become a “proclamation of the paschal mystery by which death and resurrection tend to the ‘new creation,’ in which, beyond ethnic and cultural differences, unity in Christ matters.”

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