Papal Address to Migrants and Travelers Council

«The Acquisition of Rights Goes Hand in Hand With the Acceptance of Duties»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience participants in the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers.

The meeting, which was held this week in Rome, reflected on the topic: «Pastoral Care of Human Mobility Today, in the Context of the Co-Responsibility of States and of International Organizations.»

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Esteemed Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I welcome you with great joy on the occasion of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers. I greet the president of the dicastery, Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò — whom I thank for his words of happy cordiality — the secretary, the members, the consultors and the officials. I wish all fruitful work.
You chose as the topic of this Session the «Pastoral Care of Human Mobility Today, in the Context of the Co-Responsibility of States and of International Organizations.» The movement of peoples has been for some time the object of international congresses, which seek to guarantee the protection of fundamental human rights and to combat discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. They are documents that furnish principles and techniques of supranational protection.
Appreciable is the effort to build a system of shared norms that contemplate the rights and duties of the foreigner, as well as those of the host community, taking into account, in the first place, the dignity of every human person, created by God in his image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26). Obviously, the acquisition of rights goes hand in hand with the acceptance of duties. All, in fact, enjoy rights and duties that are not arbitrary, because they stem from human nature itself, as Blessed Pope John XXIII’s encyclical «Pacem in Terris» affirms: «Every human being is a person, that is a nature gifted with intelligence and free will; and hence subject of rights and duties which are, because of this, universal, inviolable, inalienable» (No. 5).

Therefore, the responsibility of states and of international organizations is specified in the commitment to influence questions that, respecting the competencies of the national legislator, involve the whole family of peoples, and exact an agreement between governments and the organisms most directly concerned. I am thinking of problems such as the entry or forced removal of the foreigner, the enjoyment of the goods of nature, of culture and of art, of science and technology, which must be accessible to all. Not to be forgotten is the important role of mediation so that national and international resolutions, which promote the universal common good, finds acceptance with local entities and are reflected in daily life.

National and international laws which promote the common good and respect for the person encourage the hopes and efforts being made to achieve a world social order founded on peace, fraternity and universal co-operation, despite the critical phase international institutions are currently traversing as they concentrate on resolving crucial questions of security and development for everyone. It is true, unfortunately, that we are witnessing the re-emergence of particular instances in some areas of the world, but it is also true that some are reluctant to assume responsibility that should be shared.

Moreover, not yet extinguished is the longing of many to pull down the walls that divide and to establish ample agreements, also through legislative dispositions and administrative practices that foster integration, mutual exchange and reciprocal enrichment. In fact, prospects of coexistence between peoples can be offered through prudent and concerted lines for reception and integration, consenting to occasions of entry in legality, favoring the just right to the reuniting of families, asylum and refuge, compensating the necessary restrictive measures and opposing the disgraceful traffic of persons. Precisely here the various international organizations, in cooperation among themselves and with the states, can furnish their peculiar contribution in reconciling, with various modalities, the recognition of the rights of the person and the principle of national sovereignty, with specific reference to the exigencies of security, the public order and control of borders.  
The fundamental rights of the person can be the focal point of the commitment of co-responsibility of the national and international institutions. This, then, is closely linked to «openness to life, which is the center of true development,» as I confirmed in the encyclical «Caritas in Veritate» (cf. No. 28), where I also appealed to states to promote policies in favor of the centrality and integrity of the family (cf. ibid., No. 44).

On the other hand, it is evident that openness to life and the rights of the family must be confirmed in the various contexts, because «in a society in the process of globalization, the common good and the commitment to it must assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say of the community of peoples and nations» (ibid., No. 7). The future of our societies rests on the meeting between peoples, on dialogue between cultures with respect to their identities and legitimate differences. In this scene the family retains its fundamental role. Because of this, the Church, with the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ in every sector of existence, carries forward «the commitment …. in favor not only of the individual migrant, but also of his family, place and resource of culture and life and factor of integration of values,» as I reaffirmed in the Message for the World Day of the Migrant and the Refugee of the year 2006.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is also up to you to sensitize organizations that are dedicated to the world of migrants and itinerant people to forms of co-responsibility. This pastoral sector is linked to a phenomenon in constant expansion and, therefore, your role must translate into concrete answers of closeness and pastoral support of persons, taking into account the different local situations.

On each one of you I invoke the light of the Holy Spirit and the maternal protection of Our Lady, renewing my gratitude for the service that you render the Church and society. May the inspiration of Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, described as «Father of Migrants» by the Venerable John Paul II, and of whom we will remember the 105th anniversary of his birth in heaven next June 1, illumine your actions in favor of migrants and itinerant people and spur you to an ever more attentive charity, which will witness to them the unfailing love of God. For my part I assure you of my prayer, while blessing you from my heart.
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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