BOGOTA, Colombia, NOV. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Antonio Maria Velgiò is underlining the need for extra support for migrants who have been forced to leave their homes, since no social organization attends specifically to this population.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers made this point Saturday in a homily at the closing Mass of the Latin American Continental Meeting on Migration.
The meeting began Nov. 17 in Bogota, and aimed to specifically address ways of meeting the needs of migrants forced to leave their native countries.
In his homily, the prelate urged Christian communities to “support migrants in the processes of deportation and expulsion, given that in this area, at present, there is no support on the part of social organizations.”
He encouraged Christians to “take advantage of the opportunity to work in border teams building solid bridges for the benefit of migrants.”
The archbishop made other suggestions and pointed out the challenges posed by the “constant increase in migrations between the Latin American countries and to other countries of the world.”
He expressed support for initiatives that favor the organization of groups of migrants, or contribute to their training.
Archbishop Velgiò highlighted the need to “increase collaboration with non-governmental, governmental and state institutions” and to consolidate the programs for the prevention of the illicit traffic of migrants.
Policy and law
On behalf of the representatives of the 19 countries participating in the meeting, he appealed to the governments to revise their policies and laws that compromise the protection of fundamental rights, and to promote those that combat the abuse and exploitation of workers.
The prelate asked that countries “guarantee migrants’ access to services, housing, citizenship and regrouping of families, and that everything possible be done to adopt the international mechanisms of protection of the rights of all migrants and their families.”
He suggested that pastors of local Churches “assist spiritually the communities of the diaspora by sending qualified missionary priests, in joint agreement with the episcopal conferences of the host Churches.”
The archbishop described the pastoral program for migrants as “a significant frontier of a new evangelization in the present-day world.”
He expressed appreciation for the “apostolic work in favor of economic and forced migrations in Latin America,” which was carried out in the days of this meeting, organized by the pontifical council he heads in collaboration with the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).
In regard to the present migratory phenomenon, Archbishop Velgiò pointed out that “countries must not dedicate their efforts exclusively to the control of migratory flows but also to the protection of the migrant and the struggle against organized crime.”
In this sense, he lamented the fact that “the victims of trafficking, for example, feel trapped by the threats of their exploiters,” by “their irregular condition in the host country and in their own country” and “the debts that Mafia agents impose both on the victims as well as their families.”
The archbishop referred to Mary of Nazareth as “Mother of the Church and of the migrant family” and “model and inspirer of every migrant.”
He pointed out that the “Mother of the way” comes “to encourage us, to comfort us and to help us spend our best ideas and energies at the service of economic and forced migrations.”
Caritas in Veritate
On Thursday, in the meeting’s working sessions, the prelate summarized the influence of the instruction “Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi,” the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” and the 6th Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, held just over a year ago in the Vatican.
He recalled that Benedict XVI’s social encyclical highlights the need for “close collaboration” between countries of departure and arrival of migrants, as well as of the Christian communities and of all organisms dedicated to migratory movements.
Archbishop Velgiò underlined the “true integration” of migrants, which has dialogue as its engine and takes place “where interaction between the immigrants and the native population is not just limited to the economic-social field.”
He stressed the importance of being alert faced to “those who take advantage of the condition of weakness and vulnerability of migrants,” insisting that “the foreign worker is a person.”
Finally, the prelate recalled some recommendations of the last world congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, such as forming Catholics for greater knowledge and understanding of migration and its pastoral implications, and increasing the visibility of the Church’s action on the subject of migration.
He also encouraged the promotion of international campaigns to publicly combat discrimination, xenophobia and racism; and of intercultural meetings and projects to neutralize racial and cultural fears, suspicion and mistrust.
The archbishop advocated the support of migrants in the defense of their own cultural identity and rights, manifesting at the same time concrete expressions of respect for the laws, culture and tradition of the host country.
Father Gabriele Bentoglio, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, also gave an address on Thursday, in which he spoke about the human rights and dignity of the migrant in the age of globalization.
He pointed out the need for public help in development, which “has been considerably reduced,” as development in the territory would make possible control of the migratory phenomenon and avoid conflicts and forms of discrimination.
The priest also noted that the primary objective of international law is “to protect the human person that finds himself in the condition of migrant.”