Holy See on World Migration

“4 Important Factors, That Give … World Migration One of the First Places in … Discussion”

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ROME, JUNE 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is an unofficial translation of an address given by Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pastoral Council for Migrants and Travelers, at the 19th plenary session of that dicastery, held May 26-28 in Rome.

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The commitment of the universal Church on behalf of human mobility is pursued at various levels, starting from the parochial and diocesan structures to the national offices of the Episcopal Conferences and to the international ones that seek the cooperation of others Organisms and Institutions. The Pontifical Council gladly welcomes the strong desire of these offices to participate and cooperate, by aiming at fulfilling its task to assist the Pope in “the pastoral concern of the Church to bear on the special needs of those who have been forced to leave their native land or who do not have one (Pastor Bonus, no. 149).

Today human promotion, within our own specific action plan, is considered under two main viewpoints, that at times follow each other, or other times become parallel or run jointly together: 1. considering migration in its poverty, suffering and discomfort, and therefore the action required is of first aid to meet the numerous and constant emergencies; 2. seeing people on the move as a resource and investment, and thus in need to be accompanied in order to be progressively adjusted to the new social and cultural environment and reach their full integration. The Church is committed to both tasks. Actually she expresses her pastoral concern working together with governmental institutions or volunteers at national and international levels, that offer their resources and expertises to care for people on the move. The Church tries to establish a relationship of agreement with all these organisms, knowing that especially today the field of human mobility requires their attention and cooperation, by being in dialogue and practicing the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

1. The Holy Father’s Pronouncements

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI, referring to the Convention of the protection of rights of all migrant workers and their families, that came into effect on July 1st 2003, underscores the fact that “The Church encourages the ratification of the international legal instruments that aim to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and their families and, through its various Institutions and Associations, offers its advocacy that is becoming more and more necessary“[1].

<p>Solidarity and subsidiarity are the cardinal principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, on which a relationship agreement and a common goal are established for all the social, cultural, educational, institutional and ecclesial organisms in order to assess and promote models of integration and cohesion of all citizens, notwithstanding their juridical status. The Servant of God, John Paul II, on this matter says that “The Church invites all people of goodwill to make their own contribution so that every person is respected and discriminations that debase human dignity are banned. Her action, sustained by prayer, is inspired by the Gospel and guided by her age-old experience. The Ecclesial Community’s activity is also an incentive to the leaders of peoples and international communities, institutions and organizations of various kinds involved in the phenomenon of migration. An expert in humanity, the Church fulfils her task by enlightening consciences with her teaching and witness, and by encouraging appropriate initiatives to ensure that immigrants find the right place within individual societies“[2].

Thus the Pontifical Magisterium has underscored the richness and importance of the presence and activity of Organisms and Institutions within the various contexts of human mobility, all over the world. Dialogue and exchange of experiences, especially, strengthen the willingness of cooperation and the desire to find together ways to respond to the various needs. Keeping with their own specificity, all these forces continue to support the regional, national and international institutions for the whole well-being of the human person and of all human people. And this is what the Encyclical Caritas in veritate refers to as an authentic development, that “if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development” (no. 18). This also includes women and men, children, young and elderly people, who freely or forced, undertake the journey of migration[3].

On the occasion of the celebration of the first Forum of non-Governmental Organizations (ONG) of Catholic inspiration, held in Rome on 30 November – 2 December 2007, the Holy Father expressed his appreciation for their special work by saying that “Taking part in this important meeting are representatives of groups long associated with the presence and activity of the Catholic laity at the international level, along with members of other, more recent groups which have come into being as part of the current process of global integration. Also present are groups mainly committed to advocacy, and others chiefly concerned with the concrete management of cooperative projects promoting development. Some of your organizations are recognized by the Church as public and private associations of the lay faithful, others share in the charisma of certain institutes of consecrated life, while still others enjoy only civil recognition and include non-Catholics and non-Christians among their members. All of you, however, have in common a passion for promoting human dignity“.

Benedict XVI also added that “This unity of purpose can only be achieved through a variety of roles and activities. The multilateral diplomacy of the Holy See, for the most part, strives to reaffirm the great fundamental principles of international life, since the Church’s specific contribution consists in helping «to form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly» (Deus Caritas Est, 28). On the other hand, «the direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful» – and in the context of international life this includes Christian diplomats and members of Non-governmental Organizations – who «are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity» and «to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility» (ibid., 29)“.

Finally, in order to underline the importance of cooperation, the Pope concluded his discourse by saying that “What is needed, in fact, is a spirit of solidarity conducive for promoting as a body those ethical principles which, by their very nature and their role as the basis of social life, remain non-negotiable. A spirit of solidarity imbued with a strong sense of fraternal love leads to a better appreciation of the initiatives of others and a deeper desire to cooperate with them. Thanks to this spirit, one will always, whenever it is useful or necessary, work in collaboration either with the various non-governmental organizations or the representatives of the Holy See, with due respect for their differences of nature, institutional ends and methods of operation. […] When experienced in solidarity, legitimate pluralism and diversity will lead not to division and competition, but to ever greater effectiveness“[4].

We should not forget also that the Encyclical Caritas in veritate offers a special reflection in the chapter regarding “the cooperation of the human family“. Speaking of “unrelenting growth of global interdependence” (no. 67), the Holy Fat
her proposes the creation of a “world political authority” as urgent and necessary “to manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration” (ibid.).

In the context of joint responsibility of International States and Organisms, it is also important and interesting the theme of intercultural dialogue, that opens new ways for people to come together. As a matter of fact, “the unity of the human family does not submerge the identities of individuals, peoples and cultures, but makes them more transparent to each other and links them more closely in their legitimate diversity” (ibid., no. 53). This is the way to form people to a global mentality that fosters the encounter of people and cultures and requires the welcoming of differences, entering into dialogue and the exchange of gifts. Cultural pluralism is an opportunity to look for answers in order to respond to the most important questions of the human person, such as the meaning of life, history, suffering and death. Here we have an opportunity to educate people to peace as an opportunity of renewal for the administrative, political and social places of society, in the various contexts of life, family, school and Church[5].

Caritas in veritate definitely includes a strong desire for intercultural education, in order to motivate and strengthen the effort to consolidate the foundation of peace, that is tolerance, justice, goodness and forgiveness. In this perspective, intercultural formation is offered today as the main way to resolve the difficult problem of harmonizing the unity of the human family with the diversity of the peoples that form it.

2. Some recent Documents of our Dicastery

Our recent documents, in continuity with the Social Doctrine of the Church, shed light on the relationship between Christian revelation and human family, for “the whole Church, in all her being and acting – when she proclaims, when she celebrates, when she performs works of charity – is engaged in promoting integral human development“, considering that the “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension” (Caritas in veritate, nr. 11). 

For this reason, in order to enhance the joint responsibility of International States and Organisms, in 2001 the Pontifical Council edited and published the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Tourism”, where it is stated that “the principle of co-responsibility is the fundamental condition imposed on the touristic activity, whose planning and profit management are requested from its tour managers, civil authorities and local communities. The practise of this principle must be adequately regulated by the public authorities in line with the international principles that regulate the cooperation of states and the institutional tasks that promote the global development of the country” (nr. 12). The appeal to dialogue and cooperation comes up repeatedly in this Document, as in nr. 33, that encourages the Episcopal Conferences “to maintain a dialogue with the public authorities and other organisms involved, in order to establish ways of collaboration suitable for initiatives of planning and supervising the touristic activity“[6]. This statement, surely, makes clear the preoccupation that tourism develops in a selfish, consumerist and insufficient way, by also becoming an occasion of exploitation and degradation, when it creates “immoral or even perverted forms of conduct, as in the case of so-called sex tourism, to which many human beings are sacrificed even at a tender age“, as the Holy Father writes in Caritas in veritate (nr. 61)[7]. It is then the responsibility of Governments, International Organizations and the Church, with her vigilant and charitable presence, to protect the human rights, in order to make it accessible for everyone to make use of the natural, cultural and artistic goods. Tourism must aim to be an opportunity of knowledge, meeting and also growth in the way towards the unity of the human family.

Next, in 2004, John Paul II approved the publication of the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, that pays proper attention to the signs of the times and the changes of ways of migration, by calling to unity and communion of people as a providential occasion to show mutual respect and defend the dignity and human life in all its forms. This shows that “the Pontifical Council, through its superiors and officials, is at times present in the international arena, representing the Holy See at meetings of multilateral organisations” (n. 32), in order to offer with its work the promotion and support of people involved in human mobility, in various ways. Therefore, among the many tasks of this Pontifical Council, the Instruction suggests also “to study, encourage, and animate the pastoral activity of regional and continental organisms of ecclesial communion to co-ordinate and harmonise initiatives in favour of migrants” (Juridical Pastoral Regulations, art. 22 § 2)[8].

Hence, our Dicastery published in 2006 the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies”. In no. 50 we read that “The Church too – through the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Representatives and Observers of the Holy See at International Organisations, and the ecclesiastical authorities in various countries – is called on to mediate so that the decisions of the national and international Organisations in favour of Gypsies may be welcomed by local authorities and have an influence in everyday life“[9].

The following year, with special attention to the Pastoral Care of the Road, we published specific “Guidelines” for this sector. In regards to our theme, we read in no. 106 the recommendation to adopt a “multi-dimensional approach“, in which “there is a full cooperation between public and private Organisms, in order to eliminate completely sexual exploitation“[10].

Finally, in the “Manual for Chaplains and Pastoral Workers for the Maritime Apostolate”, published in 2007[11], no. 13 § 2 points out that “the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People should encourage and foster cooperation and reciprocal coordination of projects among Episcopal Conferences and local Ordinaries. This same Council will establish relations with institutes of consecrated life and with associations and organisations that can cooperate at the international level with the Work of the Maritime Apostolate“. Then, in the appendix VI, no. 11, the Document indicates among the objectives of the International Fishing Committee the one of “Therefore advocacy for good governance, is to be encouraged especially towards a) inclusiveness (empowerment, decentralization) b) lawfulness (enforcement, legal reform) c) accountability (ensure that governments are answerable and accountable and open to challenge)“.

3. Pastoral care and co-responsibility

What I have been saying so far recalls at least four important factors, that give the phenomenon of world migration one of the first places in the national and international discussion, by calling for the responsibility of all, and, in a special manner, for our interest in the specific pastoral dimension.

The first factor, the most apparent, is the demographic one. Generally speaking, welcoming Countries are experiencing a rapid aging process and a decreasing in the local population. At the same time, Countries of emigration grow rapidly, especially Asia and Africa, where the majority of people is still at a very young age.

The second factor is the economic one. Many developed Countries have to deal with the decrease of availability of work force, the financial p
ressure to guarantee pensions and medical assistance to the aging population, which are ever-increasing. Also, many Countries in the Gulf area are contracting numerous migrant workers in order to satisfy their economic growth, due to their oil fields. At the same time, men and women in poor Countries have a hard time finding jobs and look for them in rich Countries, especially in Europe and North America.

The third factor is culture, a vast sector that includes ethnicity, language, religion, customs and traditions[12]. In contrast with the past, today people on the move are often different, on a cultural level, from the welcoming people. For instance, after the Second World War, many migrants left their poor Countries from Southern Europe. Today, instead, they have a very limited professional education and are less skilled in comparison to the local people, and are also culturally and ethnically different, creating preoccupations as far as their integration and cultural belonging[13].

Finally, the fourth and crucial factor is national security. Terrorist attacks in the first decade of the new millennium (in USA, Great Britain, Spain, Indonesia and other Countries) along with the violent crimes perpetrated by immigrants and widely reported by the media, have generated reactions of rejection against migrants, also fomenting the prejudice for national safety. Consequently, many Countries have reinforced their border controls, limited their migratory policy and established new procedures to check on people arriving from specific Countries. Because of all these reasons, international human mobility will undoubtedly remain in the near future as a main topic in national and international discussions. Also, it is certain that in the next few years the debate on how to administer the international migration movements will become increasingly controversial, creating divisions and opposition among International Governments and Organizations.

On her part, the Church keeps offering a precious contribution in the complex and vast phenomenon of human mobility, by becoming the spokesperson for people more vulnerable and marginalised, and also by willingly valuing the migrants and itinerant people, within the ecclesial community and society, as an important element for mutual enrichment and the construction of the one family of peoples, in a fruitful intercultural exchange of gifts.

Thank you.

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[1]Benedict XVI, Message for the 2007 World Day of Migrant and Refugee: People on the Move XXXVIII (102, 2006) 42. Benedict XVI has also affirmed that “it is important to protect migrants and their families with the help of legislative, juridical and administrative measures and the support of system of services, centres of attention and structure for social and pastoral assistance“: Angelus of 14.01.2007: People on the Move XXXIX (104, 2007) 31.

[2]John Paul II, Message for the 1998 World Day of Migrant and Refugee: People on the Move XXVIII (81, 1999), 5. It is important to reiterate that the “International Convention for the protection of rights of migrant workers and their families was adopted by the UN General Assembly’s resolution 45/158 on 18 December 1990, and came into effect on 1 July 2003. On various occasions, the Holy See has urged those Governments that have not yet ratified this important international agreement, to do so (see for instance Erga migrantes Caritas Christi, n. 6). Other international agreements are still waiting to be ratified, like the ones listed in the action Plan (n. 78) of the “Conference of revision of Durban“, that was held in 2009, as a follow up to the “World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance“, held at Durban, in South Africa, in 2001. 

[3]Cf. A. M. Vegliò, “Carità e verità anche per i migranti”: Libertà Civili 1 (2010) 116-127.

[4]The whole text is available at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/december/documents.

[5]This entails on one side a dynamic process of mutual exchange and relation, and on the other hand an integration that requires the participation in creating and changing the social relations. In this process it is important the involvement of the young generations of migrants, to whom Benedict XVI has dedicated the “Message for the 2007 World Day of Migrant and Refugee”: People on the Move XXXIX (105, 2007) 55-58.

[6] L’Osservatore Romano, Suppl. al N. 157 (42.795), 12 July 2001.

[7]See also Pontifical Council for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people, Pastoral Message for the 2009 World Day of Tourism. It is a valuable reference the collection edited by the Pontifical Council for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people, Magistero Pontificio e Documenti della Santa Sede sulla Pastorale del Turismo, LEV, Città del Vaticano 2009.

[8]Regarding the Pastoral Care of Refugees, our Pontifical Council is now editing a specific document, that we hope it will be published soon.

[9]Cf. People on the Move XXXVIII (100 Suppl., 2006) 33-79.

[10]Cf. People on the Move XXXIX (104 Suppl., 2007) 143-192. 

[11]Cf. People on the Move XL (106 Suppl. II, 2008).

[12] Cfr. A. M. Vegliò, “Accogliere i migranti: minaccia, dovere o diritto?”: Aggiornamenti sociali 7-8 (2009) 521-527.

[13]The school in a special way becomes the place for dialogue among cultures and education of youth to co-habitation, as our XVII Plenary Assembly reiterated on “Migrazione e itineranza da e per (verso) i Paesi a maggioranza islamica(15-17 May 2006) in its Final Document, nn. 34-37: People on the Move XXXVIII (101 Suppl., 2006).

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