Vatican Aide: Migrant Families Should be Missionary

Pontifical Council Secretary Addresses Family Meeting

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By Gilberto Hernández

MEXICO CITY, JAN. 16, 2009 ( The numerous emigrant families from Catholic countries who seek a better life in other nations are an extraordinary opportunity for the proclamation of the Gospel in societies where Christ is missing, says a Vatican official.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, spoke to ZENIT after addressing the 6th World Meeting of Families that is under way through Sunday in Mexico City. He noted the historic opportunity that the Church has in a globalized world.

Archbishop Marchetto, 68, has served as papal nuncio in Madagascar, Tanzania, Mauritius and Byelorussia, and has collaborated in the Vatican Secretariat of State. He has been secretary of the pontifical council since 2001.

Q: In your conference, you showed how the migrant is a potential missionary, capable of sharing his faith in the places where he arrives. Isn’t that a little overly optimistic?

Archbishop Marchetto: Emigrants are bringing a secularized world a sprout of faith, hope and charity. Many Churches in Europe, for example, rejoice at the presence of migrants, because it is life that arrives [with them]. They have a faith that in Europe is not as strong, not as warm, and it is certain that the cultural spirit of the migrants helps in the celebrations. I am a witness of this capacity that they have of giving life to our communities, of being witnesses of the Gospel, witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Q: Nevertheless, what for receiving communities in a gain in the realm of faith, for the families of the migrants, those who stay behind, this movement implies a loss. And even in the realm of faith, many migrants end up renouncing their own and adopting another.

Archbishop Marchetto: This is one of the great questions that migration implies — the breakup of families [that happens] in many cases is a great tragedy. It should be mentioned that this conviction of loss was present in the Church since the beginnings of last century; that’s why the Church did not encourage people to go as emigrants to foreign countries.

It is true that migration is a structural phenomenon and that this movement cannot be stopped, that it is part of the world of today, of economic needs, of countries that have a very notable maturity. Everything that can be done must be done so as to avoid harm and take advantage of what can be utilized to obtain good things from this phenomenon.

Q: In the world, migration to the United States is a paradigm. How do you see this situation?

Archbishop Marchetto: We should say that in the United States, emigration is a very widespread phenomenon and the phenomenon also has aspects of abnormality. For this reason, I understand that the political leaders of the United States have difficulties with this phenomenon.

I truly hope that the arrival of the new president, because of the way he confronted this problem in the past, can bring about an understanding of the situation of millions of irregular emigrants, and especially in the treatment that there should be with them, in respect of their human rights and also in what refers to the places where they are detained so that there is a possibility of visiting them. There is a lack of attention to minors, who cannot be treated like adult; as well as for mothers who have little children. This whole question of rights needs to be considered in the antihuman effects that it brings with it.

Q: What do you think about the actions of the bishops of the United States and Mexico faced with migration?

Archbishop Marchetto: I praise the bishops of the United States for their very courageous attitudes in relation to this phenomenon and also the Mexican bishops for all of the dialogue that they have promoted among them to face this reality in the best way possible, from an ecclesial point of view.

As a Christian community, we have the instruction «Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi,» which is a guide that can help to understand many things referring to migration, and encourage the local Churches so that they do what they should regarding the defense of migrants and their pastoral care.

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