Cardinal: Don't Condemn Migrants to Death

Describes Successful Integration of Spain’s Immigrants

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 27, 2009 ( Amid an Italian debate over the fate of some African immigrants, Madrid’s archbishop is appealing for help for those who undertake the difficult voyage in search of a better future.

Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela stated this Wednesday in a meeting with journalists during the “Meeting for Friendship between Peoples,” organized in Rimini by the lay movement Communion and Liberation.

The cardinal affirmed both the right to emigrate, in certain situations, as well as the right to regulate the migratory process, taking into account the common good of people in the receiving country.
Cardinal Rouco, who is president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, made these comments at the height of an immigration debate in Italy.

This debate has arisen due to a new Italian law on public security that was passed last month, which makes irregular migration a criminal offense.

As well, last week, some 70 people died while trying to reach Italy from North Africa on a barge. The five survivors of this voyage are to be put on trial in Italy for illegal immigration.
The prelate admitted, “We are amazed in Spain by the way the problem is being dealt with here.”
According to the cardinal, “there is little unity on the part of European governments and the European Union when it comes to addressing the problem, so that the countries, or those that are most affected, are trying to organize their own policy to resolve the problem.”
He continued, “We cannot reject, we cannot condemn to death those who take to the sea to find work, housing and life in other countries of Europe.”
Cardinal Rouco explained: “I think the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church on this point are clear. Indeed there is a right to emigration, when conditions of life are not found in one’s own country, but there is also the right to a regulation of the migratory process according to the common good and the good of the country and of the society to which the immigrants go.
“Of course, they are very general principles that need political and juridical concretion. And in this process of solidification we run into very concrete problems that at times exceed us.”

Spectacular growth
The cardinal acknowledged that in recent years Spain has experience a “spectacular growth” of immigrants, so much so that today, they represent some 8% to 10% of the population in the country, and 18% in Madrid.
He noted that in Spain this phenomenon takes a particular shape, as “60 to 70% [of the immigrants] come from countries of America that speak Spanish and that basically share the same religious and cultural roots of Spain.”
“From the pastoral point of view,” the prelate affirmed, “in Spanish parishes, the Ecuadorian, Peruvian immigrants are at home in the parish, just as they were in Peru or Ecuador.”
He continued, “Even more, there are parishes in the historic centers of cities, such as Madrid, where already 80% of the faithful are Hispanic Americans; they participate normally in the life of the Church, in its associate life, in the parish pastoral councils, etc.”
“And despite this,” the cardinal lamented, “they are the ones suffering most intensely the effect of the economic crisis.”
He reported that the second largest group of immigrants in Spain comes from Central and Eastern Europe. He affirmed the good relationship with this group.
In the case of a third group, African immigrants, the cardinal mentioned the “tragedy” of the migratory passage to the Canary Islands and the Spanish coast.
He explained that this influx is often difficult for the Canary Islands, that the people “suffer it especially as they are very close to Africa” and often need help from the rest of Spain.
As a final note, Cardinal Rouco stated that the number of Muslim immigrants “is relatively small.”

He estimated that they comprise some 8% in Madrid, and in the entire country, not more than 10%.

[With the contribution of Mirko Testa]
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