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Migrants, Refugees:  Church Must Offer Maternal Love

A privileged occasion to proclaim Jesus Christ

Pope Francis said September 22, 2017 that the Church must offer “maternal love” to migrants and refugees and that helping them was a “privileged occasion to proclaim Jesus Christ.”

His comments came in an address to the participants in the meeting promoted by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) underway in Rome at the Bonus Pastor, from September 21-23, 2017.   The event was held in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

The Holy Father said the Church will remain true to its mission, as stated in his message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “of loving Jesus Christ, adoring and loving Him, particularly in the poorest and most abandoned; included among them, certainly, are migrants and refugees” (Insegnamenti II, 2 [2014], 200).

“The Church’s maternal love for these brothers and sisters of ours calls for manifesting itself concretely in all the phases of the migratory experience, from the start of the trip, from the arrival to the return, so that all the ecclesial realities situated along the trajectory are protagonists of the one mission, each according to its possibilities,” Francis continued.

The Pope called the modern flow of migrants a new missionary “frontier.”  He concluded that this offers the Church a “to witness concretely the Christian faith in charity and in profound respect for other religious expressions. “

  

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you joyfully on the occasion of your meeting, and I thank the Cardinal President for his words on behalf of all. I want to thank you from my heart for the profuse commitment over these last years in favour of so many migrant and refugee brothers and sisters, who are knocking at Europe’s door in search of a safer place and a more fitting life.

In face of the massive complex and variegated migratory flows, which have put in crisis the migratory policies adopted so far and the instruments of protection sanctioned by international conventions, the Church intends to remain faithful to her mission: that “of loving Jesus Christ, adoring and loving Him, particularly in the poorest and most abandoned; included among them, certainly, are migrants and refugees” (Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Insegnamenti II, 2 [2014], 200).

The Church’s maternal love for these brothers and sisters of ours calls for manifesting itself concretely in all the phases of the migratory experience, from the start of the trip, from the arrival to the return, so that all the ecclesial realities situated along the trajectory are protagonists of the one mission, each according to its possibilities. To recognize and serve the Lord in these members of His “people on the way” is a responsibility that unites all the particular Churches in the profusion of a constant, coordinated and effective commitment.

Dear brothers and sisters, I don’t hide from you my concern in face of the signs of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia that are found in different regions of Europe. They are often motivated by diffidence and fear of the other, of the different, of the foreigner. I’m even more concerned by the sad verification that our Catholic communities in Europe are not exempt from these reactions of defense and rejection, justified by a no better specified “moral duty” of preserving the original cultural and religious identity. The Church has spread in all the Continents thanks to the “migration” of missionaries, who were convinced of the universality of the Jesus Christ’s message of salvation, destined to the men and women of every culture. Temptations to exclusivity and cultural entrenchment have not been lacking in the history of the Church, but the Holy Spirit has always helped us to overcome them, guaranteeing a constant openness to the other, considered as a concrete possibility of growth and enrichment.

I’m sure that the Spirit helps us also today to keep an attitude of trusting openness, which enables us to surmount every barrier, to climb over every wall.

In my constant listening to the particular Churches in Europe, I’ve perceived a profound discomfort in face of the massive arrival of migrants and refugees. This discomfort is recognized and understood in the light of an historical moment marked by the economic crisis, which has left profound wounds. Moreover, this discomfort was aggravated by the rate and composition of migratory flows, by a substantial unpreparedness of the host society and by often inadequate national and communal policies. However, the discomfort is also indicative of the limitations of the European processes of unification, of the obstacles that the concrete implementation of the universality of human rights must face, of the walls against which integral humanism, which constitutes one of the most beautiful fruits of European civilization crashes.   And for Christians all this is interpreted, in addition to secular immanentism, in the logic of the centrality of the human person created by God, unique and unrepeatable.

From an exquisitely ecclesiological perspective, the arrival of so many brothers and sisters in the faith offers the Churches in Europe one more opportunity to realize fully their catholicity, constitutive element of the Church, which we confess every Sunday in the Creed. Moreover, in the last years, many particular Churches in Europe have been enriched by the presence of Catholic migrants, who have brought their devotions and their liturgical and apostolic enthusiasm.

From a missiological perspective, the contemporary migratory flows constitute a new missionary “frontier,” a privileged occasion to proclaim Jesus Christ and His Gospel without moving from one’s environment; to witness concretely the Christian faith in charity and in profound respect for other religious expressions. The encounter with migrants and refugees of other Confessions and religions is a fecund ground for the development of a sincere and enriching ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.

In my Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees of next year, I have highlighted how the pastoral response to the contemporary migratory challenges should be articulated around four verbs: receive, protect, promote, and integrate. The verb receive is then translated into other verbs, such as extending the legal and safe ways of entry, offering first an appropriate and decorous systematization and assuring all personal security and access to basic services. The verb protect is specified in offering certain and certified information before the departure, in defend the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees regardless of their migratory status and in watching over the most vulnerable, who are the boys and girls. To promote means essentially to guarantee the conditions for the integral human development of all, migrants and natives. The verb integrate is translated into opening areas of inter-cultural encounter, fostering mutual enrichment and promoting a course of active citizenship.

In the same Message I referred to the importance of Global Pacts, which States are committed to draw up by the end of 2018. The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development has prepared 20 points of actions that the local Churches are invited to use, complete and deepen in their pastoral care: these points are based on the “good practices” that characterize the tangible answer of the Church to needy migrants and refugees. The same points are useful for the dialogue that the different ecclesial institutions can have with the respective governments in view of the Global Pacts. I invite you, dear Directors, to know these points and to promote them in your Episcopal Conferences.

The same points of action also make up an articulated paradigm of the four verbs mentioned above, paradigm that could serve as a yardstick of study or of verification of the existing pastoral practices in the local Churches, in view of an ever opportune and enriching updating. May communion in reflection and action be your strength, because when one is alone, the obstacles seem much greater. May your voice be always timely and prophetic and, above all, may it be preceded by coherent action inspired in the principles of the Christian Doctrine.

Renewing to you my thanks for your great commitment in the ambit of such a complex migratory pastoral as well as its burning timeliness, I assure you of my prayer. And you also, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you.

 

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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