Migrants and refugees: Beyond the Emergency

Meeting of bishops and delegates from Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences responsible for the pastoral care of migrants

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How to tackle the most recent migrant emergencies, how to tackle human trafficking, how do the sacraments fit into the pastoral care of migrants, and the proclamation of Christ to the Chinese who have come to the old continent, are some of the questions to which the bishops and national directors from Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences responsible for the pastoral care of migrants and refugees will try to respond in the four-day long meeting, promoted by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), taking place in Vilnius (Lithuania) from 29 June – 2 July 2015.

“It emerged clearly from the recent meeting of the General Secretaries of the Bishops’ Conferences in Europe (Prague, 18-21 June), how the whole of the Church on the continent is committed to tackling the challenges arising from the current phenomenon of migration to Europe, and particularly at the moment those challenges posed by the refugee issue. In order to tackle adequately the “various faces” of migration, all parties must be involved: civil society, the Church and public authorities are called to act in harmony.

We cannot pretend that nothing is happening around us; we cannot look away from that wounded humanity which is holding out its hand to us! The Church, along with many other non-government organisations, is not only committed to administering medical aid, recalling that above all it is the human person, with his / her dignity, who must be respected and protected, but is also committed to building “bridges” between those who arrive and their respective faithful. So the Church is trying to fulfill that evangelical role, illustrated in the figure of the Good Samaritan: being that friendly face and a welcoming community, ready to heal the wounds of life and to listen to those who often have had to leave everything behind. It is in this sense that we intend to go beyond the emergency”, said Mgr Duarte da Cunha, CCEE General Secretary.

“The European Union and every individual nation on the continent must know what is their own capacity for welcoming and trying to integrate in a generous fashion those who arrive. At the same time it is important that the reasons which drive whole peoples to flee from their own houses, from their dear ones, from their loved ones… must be at the centre of our concerns. Where there is war, where there is persecution, where there is hunger, how is it possible to put an end to this rampant exodus? What are the responsibilities of the so-called “Western countries” in these human tragedies? If the Church knows how to be present, it also knows it cannot do everything. The national governments and the European Union must tackle the situation without hypocrisy and with a profound and sincere sense of solidarity”.

In Vilnius, those responsible in Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences for the pastoral care of migrants will also focus on the issue of human trafficking, examining in depth the results of the two consultations organised by the “Santa Marta Group”. With the testimony of those working on the ground they will also tackle the issue of the celebration of the sacraments in the relationship between the native church and the welcoming church. With the increase in Chinese communities in Europe, the issue of pastoral care and the proclamation of the Gospel to the Chinese on the continent will also be considered. The meeting will end on Thursday 2 July with a pilgrimage to the Hill of Crosses, to remember the many victims of illegal migration in the world.

The meeting, organised by the “Migration” section of the CCEE Caritas in Veritate Commission, led by Cardinal Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb, who will chair the meeting, is taking place in Vilnius at the invitation of the local Archbishop, Mgr Gintaras Grusas, Archbishop of Vilnius and President of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference.

Participants in the Vilnius meeting include Fr Mesmin Prosper Massengo, President of the SECAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) migration working group; and Fr Matthew John Gardzinski, from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

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