Vatican: Migrants Are Family

Archbishop Marchetto Says All Are Equals

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By Roberta Sciamplicotti

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 ( The starting point for addressing the problem of migration is recognizing the unity of the human family, says the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto said this Friday in Rome at a symposium on the theme «Human Dignity and Human Rights in the Time of Globalization,» sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in cooperation with the Community Sant’Egidio.

The archbishop began his talk, titled «Human Rights and the Dignity of Migrants in the Age of Globalization,» by observing that migration «constitutes one of the most complex challenges of our globalized world.»

«The human and ecclesial starting points,» he said, are «the affirmation of equality among persons — completely beyond questions of ethnicity, language and origin — and the unity of the human family.»

The archbishop explained that this is why the Church is «extremely attentive» to the welcoming and pastoral care of migrants, not forgetting that the phenomenon of migration also carries with it «a complex mix of duties and rights, the first of which is the right to migratory relocation.»

The right of governments to handle migration must, for its part, he continued, «provide clear and viable measures for regular entrance into the country, oversee the labor market to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers, enact measures for regular integration, combat xenophobic behavior, and promote the social, cultural and religious coexistence that every pluralistic society demands.»

The archbishop said the government must also «correspond to its duty/right to guarantee lawfulness, punish criminal behavior and delinquency and deal with people in irregular situations,» but always doing so «with respect for human dignity, human rights and international agreements.»

Global approach

Archbishop Marchetto explained that the safeguarding of human dignity «highlights the necessity of a specific pastoral care for first and second generation migrants» that should consider «respect for the use of the mother tongue in catechesis, preaching and the administration of the sacraments, attention to the particular demands of popular piety, and the assignment of expressly designated missionaries.»

The pastoral structures, he added, must «guarantee a progressive process of active integration into the local Church, that overcomes, on the one hand, the temptations of ‘religious colonization’ and total assimilation, and avoids, on the other hand, the formation of a ghetto.»

Along with pastoral care, Archbishop Marchetto continued, «adequate social, civil and political interventions must not be lacking.»

The prelate said migration «almost obliges us to put the human person at the center for the sake of a profitable development of the whole family of peoples and nations, urging priorities and precise criteria for intervention.»


Archbishop Marchetto stressed that there is a need to «improve society’s level of ‘humanism,’ renewing the culture and education in its many ramifications.» From this perspective the knowledge of various ethnic groups and their cultures is seen as «an obligatory step that should be inserted into educational programs and catechesis.»

The structures for the pastoral care of migrants, Archbishop Marchetto pointed out, «need to value occasions of meeting and dialogue, that can help to improve interpersonal relations and also favor a more complete and convinced witness to the evangelical message.»

Toward this end it is necessary to emphasize «formation, especially of young people, but also of leaders of groups and communities.»
«What is urgent today and is the secret of the future is dialogue between persons, communities, peoples, cultures, religions and ethnic groups because closure and intolerance come from making ourselves and our own group into idols,» he added.

«To have a positive and lasting effect,» Archbishop Marchetto concluded, «globalization must be founded on a vision of the human person that responds to Christian criteria that are profoundly human, totally beyond materialist and atheist ideologies, which are wedded to relativism, and in the end relativize the fundamental dignity of every human person.»

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