An Unlikely Tool for Combatting Secularization

Pontifical Council Points to Potential of Migration

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2010 ( Migration can be a tool to halt the spread of secularization, if the Church becomes a focal point for young immigrants and immigration becomes an opportunity for evangelization.

This was one of the conclusions from the Sixth World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, which took place at the Vatican last November.

The theme of the conference focused on a pastoral response to the phenomenon of migration in the era of globalization, five years after the instruction «Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi.»

The final document from the meeting was released today by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

From the four-day conference, which included an audience with Benedict XVI, delegates extracted 21 recommendations.

Firstly, they proposed that Church structures need to be developed and strengthened «through increased collaboration and networking between bishops of host, transit and countries of origin.»

In this regard, institutes of consecrated life play a valuable role, the delegates observed.

Young travelers

Several of the recommendations dealt specifically with the particular difficulties facing young migrants.

The Church must «open its arms to all migrants, whatever may be their age, creed or conviction,» the final document affirms.

And the delegates went on to offer the reflection that immigration, if handled well, can become a tool to fight growing secularization.

They proposed: «In transforming the Church into a meeting point especially for young migrants, the negative effect of secularization can be defeated thus contributing to transforming migration into an opportunity for evangelization, in full respect of everyone’s choice. This calls for a clear vision, specific pastoral guidelines, dedication and brotherly love to reach out to young migrants.»

The pontifical council conference further recommended that local Churches «incorporate in their pastoral programs the faith and value formation of children who have at least one foreign parent, while Churches of origin are encouraged to develop programs to respond to the needs of the migrants’ families or children who have been left behind in their homeland.»

Learning to trust

The delegates recognized that there is a «growing mutual mistrust between the migrants and refugees and their receiving communities» and they encouraged diocese to take concrete steps to stop this problem.

«Indeed the Church can encourage all […] to live together peacefully and develop a culture of reciprocity in the world,» the document states. «In this context, Catholic migrant and refugee associations are not to be seen only in terms of their identity and protection levels, but even more as promoters of the active participation of migrants and refugees in the life of the society, together with the members of the local communities.»

Migrant missionaries

The delegates also noted the fundamental role of migration in the history of the Church.

«Catholic and all Christian migrants are a significant missionary force for the Church,» the document states. «They are therefore urged to be steadfast in their faith and maintain their connection with the local Church, wherever they may be, to be able to effectively carry out their missionary role in their host countries.

«In fact, the Christian faith was ‘sown’ in the world, and in all times, largely through migrants.»

And besides spreading the faith, the delegates suggested, migrants can promote peace.

Ecumenical networking in migration should be promoted, they said, «as it can be an important contribution to peace and reconciliation, when diversity is not considered a reason for exclusion, but an opportunity for enrichment and growth.»

Finally, conference participants called for the promotion of more efforts within the Church.

Recommendations included: making better use of mass media and modern means of communication; promoting the Catholic World Day of Migrants and Refugees, as encouraged by the Holy Father; promoting international campaigns to publicly combat discrimination, xenophobia and racism; and rendering migrants advocates of their own cultural identity and rights, as they give concrete signs of respect for the laws, culture and tradition of the host country.

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