Responding to Pope Francis’s call to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees, eight Bishops Conferences in South America have joined forces to find solutions to the massive migration of Venezuelans who are fleeing their country to save their lives and to seek refuge and a dignified life abroad.
The Holy Father made his appeal for helping migrants explicit in his 2018 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees:
“Throughout the first years of my pontificate, I have repeatedly expressed my particular concern for the lamentable situation of many migrants and refugees fleeing from war, persecution, natural disasters, and poverty. This situation is undoubtedly a “sign of the times” which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit, ever since my visit to Lampedusa on 8 July 2013. When I instituted the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, I wanted a particular section – under my personal direction for the time being – to express the Church’s concern for migrants, displaced people, refugees and victims of human trafficking.”
Francis also asked for prayers for the people of Venezuela during his Easter Blessing Urbi et Orbi:
“We also invoke fruits of consolation for the Venezuelan people, who, as their bishops have written, are living in a kind of “foreign land” within their own country. May that nation, by the power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, find a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it. May welcome and assistance not be wanting to its sons and daughters forced to abandon their homeland.”
With the assistance of the Migrant & Refugees Section of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, these Bishops Conferences have developed a pastoral plan that aims at promoting the integral human development of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans in any phase of migration: departure, transit, arrival and return. Through coordinated action, their holistic plan sets out a wide range of activities and services that address Venezuelan migrants, other vulnerable migrants and the local communities who host them. Examples of such activities are:
• Centers and shelters for vulnerable migrants;
• Assistance in housing, job seeking, and social inclusion;
• Facilitation of access to education and health services;
• Advocacy and legal assistance;
• Professional training of pastoral agents;
• Awareness campaigns and sensitization of local communities.