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Pontifical Counsil for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

The Fifth World Congress 

for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees

(Rome, 17-22 November 2003)

Migration is an age-old phenomenon, but modern-day global phenomena have encouraged its increase, even to the point of being unmanageable, and beyond reasonable control. Violence, war, terrorism and violation of human rights have triggered the movement of refugees. Nation-states are experiencing the porosity of their borders and their inability to check undocumented migration.

The Second Millennium has ended, but not the sad situation involving migrants and refugees. The Church wishes to share their plight and be there where they are, not to be a mere by-stander and passive observer, but to be with them in their search for a dignified human life, worthy of children of God, as Christ wishes for the world today.

In this spirit, a series of World Congresses on the pastoral care of migrants and refugees have been organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

The Fourth World Congress, which took place in 1998, the last of the series, dealt with “Migration at the Threshold of the Third Millennium.” Its Final Statement included concrete recommendations for action on the part of civil society and the Church. During the Audience accorded by the Holy Father to the Congress participants, he expressed the hope that the analyses, decisions and proposals made during the Congress “would be an effective stimulus for those who, in the Church and in society, share in this concern for migrants and refugees.”

As a follow-up of the Congress, the Pontifical Council organized four Regional Meetings (Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, America) of National Directors for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, officially designated as such by their respective Episcopal Conferences. This concluded with a World Meeting. All these meetings aimed to find out how the local Churches were actually responding to the situation and determine ways by which they could be more effective in the pastoral field.

The coming Fifth World Congress will be held in Rome, from 18 to 22 November 2003. The theme will be: “ Starting Afresh from Christ. Towards a New Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees.”

With the explosion of the migration phenomenon, both voluntary and forced, and the changes in the characteristics of human mobility at the beginning of the new millennium, the Pontifical Council perceived the need for new pastoral strategies, programmes, and maybe even methods, to carry out its mission efficaciously in the world of migrants and refugees. The Fifth World Congress is a fortunate occasion for a discussion of this need among all actors in this pastoral care at a worldwide level. Hopefully, this will lead to adequate responses in terms of renewal and continuity, planning and projects.

To be able to do this, the Congress intends to give the necessary input so that all participants will be able to give the best of themselves in this challenging task. The tentative Programme that follows is a demonstration of this intention.