ROME, NOV. 18, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Stephen Hamao opened the 5th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, inviting Christians to be the “hands” of Christ which welcome migrants and refugees.
The meeting, being held today through Saturday at the Augustinianum Patristic Institute, attracted almost 300 cardinals, bishops, religious, laity and experts in the pastoral care of migrants, as well as delegates from other Christian churches and communities. In total, 99 countries are represented.
“In a certain sense all of us represent the 175 million migrants and 40 million refugees and displaced people worldwide and we make ourselves the spokesmen of the concern the Church has for them,” said Cardinal Hamao, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, which organized the congress.
“These persons have the right to know Christ and to experience his love for the men and women of all nations and all ethnic groups,” the Japanese cardinal added in his opening address today.
“Using an expression of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, we are his hands, his ears and his heart,” he said. “Let us look at the future, conscious that the Lord will assist us in the mission he has entrusted to us.”
For this reason, only with a life of holiness will Christians be able to respond adequately to the needs felt by the migrants and refugees, he added.
“Only in this way will our pastoral programs really contribute to realize God’s plan of love for humanity, one family of brothers and sisters,” Cardinal Hamao concluded.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C., closed the morning talks, by emphasizing that the Church must be the defender of migrants and offer testimony of common fraternity.