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Art. 149

The Pontifical Council applies the pastoral solicitude of the Church to the particular needs of those who have been forced to abandon their homeland, as well as to those who have none. Consequently, the Council closely follows all questions pertaining to this matter.

Art. 150

§1. The Council is committed to assuring that particular Churches offer efficacious and relevant spiritual assistance to refugees and exiles by setting up adequate pastoral structures when necessary, as well as to migrants, nomads and circus people.

§2. In these particular Churches, it facilitates the pastoral care of seafarers both at sea and in port, especially through the Apostleship of the Sea, over which it constitutes the highest authority.

§3. It exercises the same solicitude for those who are employed or work in airports or on airplanes.

§4. It endeavors that all Christians may become aware of the needs of all these people and show solidarity with them, especially during the celebration of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.

Art. 151

The Pontifical Council is committed to assuring that journeys undertaken for reasons of piety, study or relaxation may aid in the moral and religious formation of the faithful; It assists particular Churches so that all those who are far from home may be given adequate pastoral assistance.

(From the APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION "PASTOR BONUS"on the Roman Curia, June 28, 1987)

Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
Palazzo S. Calisto -00120 Città del Vaticano
Tel. (06) 69887193/69887275 - Fax (06) 69887111


The field of activity of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants covers of a broad range of people who cannot easily be put into any one category. For this reason two different and distinct categories have been designated: Migrants and Itinerants. The people who make up these two groups often overlap: migrants, exiles, refugees, seafarers, flight personnel, those involved in highway transport, nomads, pilgrims and tourists, In addition there are others who under various titles are involved in the field of human mobility: foreign students, workers and technicians and who by the global nature of their work, or the international level of their scientific research, must move from place to place" (Annuario Pontificio 1993, Historical Note, page 1741).

The pastoral care of the Church for these groups is manifested in many different initiatives, some of which came to be permanently supervised by various offices of the Roman Curia

In 1952, in the Sacred Consistorial Congregation (now called Congregation of Bishops) Pius XII founded the "Superior Council for Emigrants" and the "General Secretariat for the Direction of the Apostolatus Maris", and in 1958 the General Direction of the Apostleship of the Skies or the Air. In 1965, Paul Vl founded the "International Secretariat for the Direction of the Apostolatus Nomadum" in the same Dicastery. In 1967 he instituted the "Office for the Pastoral Care" of people who are part of the complex phenomenon known commonly as "Tourism" in the Congregation for the Clergy.

In view of the rising significance of human mobility in all its aspects and components, and with the intention of remedying the dispersed manner in which spiritual assistance was provided, Paul Vl judged it opportune that these diverse "initiatives should be brought together to form a permanent, efficient and productive entity under a single directorship". This decision was contained in the Motu Proprio Apostolicae Caritatis (AAS, LXII, 1970, pp. 193-197): "We have judged it opportune to found, within the Office of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, the Pontifical Commission for Migrants and Tourism, which shall contain all the initiatives mentioned above."

The dependence was terminated by the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus on June 28, 1988, changed the name of the Pontifical Commission to that of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. It now enjoys equal legal juridical status with the other Dicasteries in the Roman Curia (Art. 2, Par. 2).


As a direct result of Vatican Council II, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples expresses through new methods and united a direction, the "care of the Church" for the people involved in human mobility. Its task is one of instigating, promoting and coordinating opportune initiatives to help those, who through choice or necessity, have left their normal place of residence. It also reflects on social, economic and cultural questions and problems which commonly cause such movements.

The many and diverse categories of the complex phenomenon of human mobility present convergent elements with common denominators as well as characteristics and unique problems which require their own specific solutions. For this reason, the functions of the Pontifical Council are differentiated in the various categories manifested, as can easily be seen from the variety of verbs used to describe the Council's actions.

The Pontifical Council addresses itself directly to the National Episcopal Conferences and to individual Dioceses in order to give particular pastoral care to those involved in human mobility, adopting such measures as are required. The Church provides operational structures for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people at a national level (Episcopal Commis sions and national directors), at the diocesan level (individual offices) and at the local level (individual parishes, missions cum cura animarum and chaplaincies).

Because the nature and characteristics of human mobility are always developing and changing, it is necessary to have institutions and other means to monitor and to evaluate trends and progress. With this intention in mind, the Pontifical Council organises and promotes meetings, seminars and congresses at the international level in all areas of human mobility.

The Council publishes a magazine entitled People on the Move which covers topical problems and current scientific research in all areas relating to human mobility.

In addition, the Council publishes the series Quaderni Universitari in which sociologists and psychologists, anthropologists and economists, jurists and canonists, moralists and theologians, write on problems relating to human mobility from their own specialized points of view. This initiative is continuous and open, particularly useful for those who are guided to priesthood. These students will be able to develop specific pastoral care among immigrants and itinerant peoples as the actual situation demands, and as recommended by the Congregation of Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Institutes of Study) in the instruction distributed in January of 1986 to Ordinaries and Rectors of Seminaries.

The Pontifical Council seeks to contribute to the universal mission of the Church through the establishment and development of pastoral care which continually strives to become more efficient in the service of everyone involved in the field of human mobility.



"Emigration is a massive and permanent phenomenon of our time, which while taking new forms, touches every continent and almost every country, raising human and spiritual problems" (John Paul

The Church in both the countries of departure and of arrival are called on to collaborate in helping migrants: the Church in the country of departure by providing suitable missionaries who are ready to go abroad with the migrants, and the Church in the "receiving" country by welcoming the migrants and helping them to find a place in the ecclesiastical community. It does this while respecting the ethnic and cultural identity of people, creating the necessary structures to further this aim.

Each year the Holy Father addresses "The Message for the Day of Migrants and Refugees" to all local Churches, particularly those which celebrate this occasion on the Sunday designated by the National Episcopal Conference.

Documents: The Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia (1952), Vatican Council II (Gaudium et Spes, 6, 27, 65, 66, 84, 87; Apostolicam Actuositatem, 10; Ad Gentes, 20, 38; Christus Dominus, 18);

The Motu Proprio Pastoralis Migratorum Cura of Paul Vl (1969);

The Instruction De Pastorali Migrantorum Cura (1969) of the Congregation of the Bishops, (1969); The Church and Human Mobility, published by the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant people (1978); The Codex of Canon Law (1983) which assimilates the fundamental directives of De Pastorali Migrantorum Cura.


On almost every continent the scene of multitudes of people fleeing their homelands to take refuge in other countries has become a common sight in this century. Tragically their numbers continue to grow with no prospect of the tide turning. Even with the creation of international legal instruments intended to defend these people, millions of refugees today are left without protection. The term "refugee", whatever reaction it may conjure up in one's conscience, is a constant and concrete reminder of the presence of a part of our wounded world.

In addition to bringing the refugees' cause to the attention of national and international institutions in respect to the life and dignity of each of these human beings, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples promotes and coordinates their pastoral and spiritual care with the local Church, both at the national and regional level. Those wounded physically, psychologically and morally by their forced uprooting require the nourishment not only of bread and water, but also of the Word of God.

The directives of the Church pertaining to migrants are also valid for refugees.

Documents: "Refugees, A Challenge to Solidarity" jointly published by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and by this Pontifical Council (1992); The Circular Letter of this Council "Concerning the Pastoral Care of Refugees" (1983).

The Apostleship of the Sea

This specific apostolic work concerns seafarers on merchant, passenger and fishing vessels, It covers the three main periods in the rhythm of maritime life: at sea (where 80% of on-board time is spent); in port for loading and unloading (where a "Stella Maris" center is often to be found, operating under the auspices of the local church), and in the family of the seafarer or fisher while waiting for a ship.

The objective of the Apostleship of the Sea is the evangelization of seafarers and fishers. In this task the seafarers themselves are the frontline apostles among their colleagues, particularly in the building of Christian community on board, but in the promotion of human dignity and the defence of one's rights as well.

In an ecumenical spirit, the Apostleship of the Sea cooperates closely with members of the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) and with other Christian Churches who are active in this ministry.

Documents: Normae et Facultates, (1977); The Quarterly Bulletins of the Apostleship of the Sea; Manual for Chaplains and Pastoral Workers, (1990); The Acts of the Congresses of the Apostleship of the Sea.


The recipients of "Pastoral Care for Nomads" are persons, families and groups who lead a nomadic way of life, be it for ethnic reasons (e.g. Gypsies) or for socio-economic reasons (fairground and circus workers). In addition there are others who do not have a permanent residence and who do not enjoy pastoral care from a parish.


Gypsies are an ethnic minority with their own language, culture, traditions and customs. They are to be differentiated from the host peoples in whose midst they live and from other types of nomadic peoples.

There are approximately 15 million gypsies in the world: 4,036,000 in Europe, 8,000,000 in India and Southeast Asia, 1,652,000 in the USA and South America.

Documents: The Acts of Congresses for Gypsies.

Circus and Fairground Workers

Special pastoral attention is paid to "journeying companies of the Church on the road, pilgrims on earth," which is how circus and fairground workers were defined by Paul Vl. A mature and responsible openness is required of local churches towards the pastoral care of these categories of people, whose existence is characterised by a mobility involving entire families.

Documents: The Acts of the Congresses of Circus and Fairground Workers

Tourism, Pilgrimages and Shrines

Paul Vl described tourism as "a social happening of the Twentieth Century" (L'Osservatore Romano, June 17, 1963). Through its links with the development of free time, the rise in access to means of transport and the opening of frontiers, tourism is becoming one of the most important service industries in the world economy.

It provides the possibility of a meeting between peoples and cultures. It can also contribute to the integration and development of nations if it is placed at the service of humankind.

The pastoral care of tourists and workers of tourism is wide-ranging. It includes: the administration of the sacraments; cultural and catechetical welcomes in centers of Christian art; the institution of moments of spiritual rest and places for reflection suited to the availability of holiday time; and ethical reflections on the unity and togethemess of the tourist economy.

Because of their growing popular attraction, shrines (the "Antennae of the Good News") and the pilgrimages which lead to them require a renewed effort of evangelisation of popular religiosity.

Documents: The General Directive Peregrinans in Terra (1969); The Acts of the World Congresses; A Quarterly Bulletin of information on Tourism.

Apostolate of Civil Aviation

The Apostolate of this sector covers people who, broadly speaking, can be subdivided into three groups: in-flight personnel, airport and ground personnel and their families, and passengers, none of whom benefit from the usual pastoral care offered by their parishes. Though this difficulty is temporary in nature for passengers, for other groups it may be prolonged because of the nature of the activity with which they are connected.

An important expression of this pastoral care is the Christian community among airport personnel, whose most obvious focal point is the chapel and chaplain with an associated team of workers. In many airports there is collaboration with pastoral care givers from other Christian churches as well as with non-Christian religions.

Documents: Pastoral Directive on Civil Aviation; The Acts of the Congresses and the Seminars on Pastoral Care in Civil Aviation.

Foreign Students

International collaboration in scientific and technical fields also contributes to the growth of human mobility today, especially in relation to the developing world. So too is the increasing frequency of cultural relationships, thanks to the founding of international institutes on a vast scale, and to the many possibilities of studying at foreign universities.

Within this great constellation of "foreign students," those who come from developing countries merit special attention. These students cannot finish their university studies in their own countries because of the existence of "numerous clauses", the fact that such institutions of higher education don't exist in their countries, or for political reasons (e.g. war or the closing of a university), are to be considered true "Intellectual Migrants". The Holy Father entrusts a particularly important task to these students: "Because of their capability of bringing together tradition and transformation, they represent the key to a better social and economic future for their own countries".

This consideration provides a still greater stimulus to the Church to offer them special moral and spiritual assistance.