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Vatican: Conference on pastoral care of migrants opens

Vatican: Conference on pastoral care of migrants opens

The VII World Congress on the Pastoral Care of migration organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the theme “Cooperation and development in the pastoral care of immigrants” opened on Monday at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. About three hundred participants came from 93 countries in 5 continents. Below, please find the full text of the presentation of the Congress, given by the Secretary of the Council, Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil:

As Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, it is my pleasure to present to you, at the beginning of this first full-day of proceedings, the goals and aspirations of these next few days of our meeting. We have gathered here together for this 7th World Congress in continuity with the six Events that preceded it and, indeed, this is a World Congress as those present come from all ends of the Earth: from over 100 countries of all five Continents.

The Congress is so designed that each day is dedicated to a different topic within the wider context of the theme of this Event: “Cooperation and Development in the Pastoral Care of Migrations”. Our plan of action is structured in such a way so as to culminate, through the different conferences and further debates that elaborate on the key note addresses, in the personal exchange and the expression of concrete ideas and thoughts in the Working Groups of the afternoon. My dear friends, we are here not only to share our experiences and ideas, but to work together to elaborate recommendations and ideas that will be of assistance to each one of us in our pastoral care for the next few years.

I. Day One – The Diaspora

In the context of the theme of the Congress, the first full day of proceedings is dedicated to the subject of the diaspora, in particular the labor migration of workers – a phenomenon characteristic to so many different nations around the globe. As a result of the modern-day globalization process, it is a trend among residents of one country to leave for better living prospects in a more developed country. Primarily migrating in search of better job opportunities and better life conditions, these migrants often leave behind their families and relatives in the hopes of sending back remittances to better their economic and social status, and one day finding a way to help them migrate abroad, as well.

It is a great pleasure, therefore, that the Main Conference of the day, which will serve as the basis for today’s work, will be delivered by His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and Member of our Pontifical Council, who is also a citizen of a country that has one of the largest population outside of its borders, the Philippines. The Conference will be on the subject of “Diaspora and Cooperation: Towards the Development of the World and of the Church”. In reference to both society and the Church, today, it is necessary to recognize the need to strengthen synergies between international migration and development at the global, national, regional and local levels. In a general ecclesial perspective, migration must always be seen in the context of the universality of the Church: integration at the local Church level is always in view of the Universal Church, while at the same time respecting the particularities and necessities of the Local Church.

Within the context of the diaspora arises a very important subject that is often affected by labor migration, that is, that of the family which will be the center of attention for the first Round Table of the Congress, entitled “The Migrant Family in the Context of the Diaspora”. In his Message for the World Day of the Migrant and Refugee for 2007, specifically dedicated to the migrant family, Pope Benedict XVI stated that “An attentive pastoral presence is necessary. Aside from giving assistance capable of healing the wounds of the heart, pastoral care should also offer the support of the Christian community, able to restore the culture of respect and have the true value of love found again”. The family is the source for the culture of life, and a factor for the integration of human and Christian values. This remains true of the family with respect to the phenomenon of migration, which has taken on structural dimensions in today’s society. The care of the migrant family requires not only cooperation between the country of origin and the respective country of destination, but also a strong cooperation between the Church of origin, and the Church which welcomes the migrant family. To discuss and share their insight on the matter for the Round Table, we will have the honor of guest speakers from three different cultural backgrounds: His Excellency Bishop John Charles Wester of Salt Lake City (USA), His Excellency Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula of Xai-Xai (Mozambique), and His Excellency Bishop Mario Toso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

II. Day Two – Migrants as Partners

Continuing our reflections on cooperation and development in the pastoral care of migrations, the keyword for the second full-day of proceedings is partner. Migrants contribute and cooperate substantially to the well-being and to the development not only of their country of origin, but of their country of adoption, as well. The deliberations of the day will aim, in some way, to acknowledge and underline the important role that migrants play as partners in the development of origin, transit and destination countries and to recognize the need to improve public perceptions of migrants and migration, and to recognize the contributions of migrants towards development in both origin and destination countries. This same approach will apply to the role migrants play within the Church community where they currently find themselves at the moment. To deliver the Main Conference for the day, entitled “Migrants as Partners in the Development of Countries of Origin, of Transit and of Destination”, will be Dr. Johan Ketelers, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), who is also Consultor and longtime collaborator and friend of our Pontifical Council.

The concept of “partner” naturally leads us into the consideration of the role of women migrants in the second Round Table of the Congress. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), female migration has reached about 49% of the entire migration population. Women are capable of changing and transforming both the face of cooperation and development. In the past, their movements were strongly tied with family reunification. Today, women are protagonists and leading players along with their male counterparts in the role that they undertake in today’s society. In the Round Table discussion, entitled “The Role of Women Migrants in Cooperation and Development”, it will be our great pleasure to host three exceptional persons: Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem from Lagos (Nigeria), Coordinator of the African Network Against Human Trafficking; Dr. Martina Liebsch, Advocacy and Policy Director of Caritas Internationalis; and Sr. Rosita Milesi from Brasília (Brazil), Director of the Migration and Human Rights Institute (Instituto Migrações e Direitos Humanos). Their interventions will assist us in paving the theological and pastoral foundation for the solicitude of the Church towards female migrants, and to understand better their situation and role in both society and the Church.

III. Day Three – The Dignity of the Migrant

In his first Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees for 2014, Pope Frances states: “The face of each person bears the mark of the face of Christ! Here we find the deepest foundation of the dignity of the human person, which must always be respected and safeguarded. It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God’s own image and likeness and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ!” For this reason, the third full-day of proceedings of the Congress has been dedicated to the subject of migrant dignity. Human dignity plays an important role in the managing of migrant flows and in the approach that both civil and ecclesial communities take in reference to the presence of migrants among them. It is a concept that derives from the recognition that all human persons were created in the image and likeness of God. Religious, ethnic, social or cultural variables, citizenship or lack of it, do not change this fact that gives any individual an inherent and immeasurable worth and dignity to the point that each human life is considered sacred. In leading us, therefore, in our reflections with the Main Conference, “The Dignity of the Migrant – a Child of God, Created in His Image and Likeness, Who Bears the Image of Christ the Migrant”, will be His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and longtime collaborator of this Pontifical Council.

The third Round Table will further the discussion begun in the Main Conference, turning its attention to the subject of young migrants and their role in society and in the Church. Our deliberations will seek, in some way, to recognize the particular vulnerabilities, circumstances and needs of adolescents and young migrants, while at the same time expounding and noting the great potential that these young persons have in building social, economic, cultural and religious bridges of cooperation and understanding across societies and Church communities. Our three guest speakers, who will elaborate and debate on the subject of “Young Migrants: Potential in Building Bridges of Cooperation Between Societies Towards Development”, are: His Excellency Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of Panama City (Panama) and President of S.E.D.A.C.; His Excellency Bishop Barthélemey Adoukonou, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Reverend Father Maurizio Pettenà, National Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office in Canberra (Australia) and Consultor of this Pontifical Council. Coming from three very different backgrounds, it is our hope that the discussion will give insight to our pastoral care of young migrants.

IV. Workshops and Presentations

Dear participants! This Congress is not just an Event in which we all remain still and passive. This is our Congress! In order to offer you the opportunity to reflect on the Conferences and Round Tables, the program has provided three afternoon workshop sessions. They are planned to give you the chance to make your own personal contributions based on your personal knowledge and experiences, to further expound on what has been presented in the previous lectures and dialogues. It is highly recommended that each of you actively participate in the Workshops, as your reflections and the considerations you will express will hopefully lead to the formulation, at the conclusion of this Meeting, of a Final document that will be an instrument that will serve all of us in our pastoral care and approach for the next five years.

One final note regarding the Congress: every day we will have the opportunity to listen and watch short presentations prepared by eleven Bishops’ Conferences. They will be a chance to experience, at least in some small form, the richness and variety that the Catholic Church offers in its pastoral care of migrants. To all those who put in their time and effort to prepare this portion of the program, my profound and sincere thanks.

As this Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants opens, I wish to conclude by quoting a passage from the Encyclical letter Spe salvi of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI: “Every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs; this task is never simply completed”. And continuing, the Holy Father stated: “Yet every generation must also make its own contribution to establishing convincing structures of freedom and of good, which can help the following generation as a guideline for the proper use of human freedom” (n. 25). This task begins here, today. May this encounter together bring bountiful fruit in the assistance of our brothers and sisters migrants, who are “on the move” in search of a better future and the hope of encountering kindness and help, which are a reflection of the Father’s love for each one of us.

(from Vatican Radio)