for the Pastoral Care of the Migrants and Itinerant People
II World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Foreign Students
– 16th December 2005)
The Congress was held at the “Casa Maria Immacolata”, in Rome, and was
organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and
Itinerant People, on the topic: “The Foreign Students and the Instruction Erga
migrantes caritas Christi”. Its President and Secretary chaired the
sessions of the meeting. Two officials of the Dicastery were present as well.
Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and lay people, attended as
representatives of eighteen countries (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium,
Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal,
South Africa, Spain, Sweden - for the Nordic Countries -, Switzerland, Tanzania,
USA) and of CCEE and CELAM. There were two fraternal Delegates (from the
Anglican Communion and the World Council of Churches), delegates of various
religious congregations (Legionaries of Christ, Salesians), and of Opus Dei and
representatives of lay associations and ecclesial movements (IYCS, MIEC, SECIS,
UCSEI, KAAD, AII, Focolari, Community of Saint’Egidio) and two observers.
With a warm welcome, the President of the Pontifical Council,
H. Em. Stephen Fumio Cardinal Hamao, opened the Congress by highlighting the
importance of foreign students [here we use the expression “foreign
students”, which is quite traditional, although some countries prefer the term
“international students”], who call for the attention and pastoral care of
the Universal Church and the particular Churches. Archbishop Agostino Marchetto,
Secretary of the Dicastery, presented the theme and the agenda of the meeting
and likewise offered some criteria for a specific pastoral care of foreign
students. He also indicated a vast and important field of apostolate, which
requires such a specific pastoral vision. Then the two fraternal Delegates, Rev.
Dr. Richard Burridge, representing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Dr. Gary
Vachicouras, Delegate of W.C.C., greeted the assembly. After this, all the
participants presented themselves.
On the second day, after the celebration of the Holy Mass to implore the Holy
Spirit for assistance, the situation of foreign students in the world was
presented by the Rev. Canon Charles de Hemptinne, President of SECIS (Service of
European Churches for International Students), based on the answers to a
questionnaire sent previously. This was followed by a Round Table at which the
representatives of the different countries, institutions and associations presented
their points of view and shared their experiences. On his part, H. E. Archbishop
Robert Sarah, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples,
introduced the topic “The Ecumenical, Inter-religious and Intercultural
Dimension of the Pastoral Care for Foreign Students” (EMCC, NN. 49-69), followed
by study groups.
On the third day, H.E. Msgr. Cesare Nosiglia, Archbishop-Delegate of the CCEE
for the Pastoral Care in Universities, who was supposed to speak on the “Guidelines
for Pastoral Care in the Universities of Europe, with special attention given to
Pastoral Agents and their Formation” (EMCC, NN. 70-88), delegated Msgr.
Leuzzi to read his text because he could not attend the meeting. Later on
Archbishop Michael Miller, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education,
delivered a speech entitled “Towards a Missionary Pastoral Care of
Proclamation, Evangelization and Dialogue” (EMCC, NN. 89-104), followed by
a second series of workshops.
The summit of the Congress was the participation in the Holy Mass for
Roman University students, presided over by H.E. Card. Camillo Ruini, followed
by an audience with the Holy Father for all participants.
The words of the Pope were received with great joy. He said:
“I am also pleased on this occasion to welcome those taking part in the World
Congress of Pastoral Care for Foreign Students, organized by the Pontifical
Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I address an
affectionate welcome to everyone. […]
I would now like to turn my attention to the foreign students.Their presence is a growing phenomenon and is an important field of pastoral
action for the Church. Indeed, young people who leave their own
country in order to study encounter many problems and especially the risk of an
identity crisis and a loss of spiritual and moral values.
Moreover, for many young people the possibility of studying abroad is a unique
opportunity to become better able to contribute to the development of their own
countries and participate actively in the Church’s mission. It is important to
continue on the journey undertaken to meet the needs of these brothers and
sisters of ours.”
On the last day, the assembly listened to the reports of the workshops and the
propositions of the Congress for the Final Document.Reaffirming their firm intention to pursue the work of these days, in a spirit
of collaboration and some kind of coordination, the participants examined
strategies for the future, taking into account methodologies and objectives,
which are summarised in the following conclusions and recommendations.
With words of thanks, Card. Stephen Fumio Hamao closed the Congress.
- Jesus Christ is our icon of the ‘man on the move’(Luke 9:58; EMCC 15).
- Christ said ‘I was a stranger and you made me welcome’ (Mt. 25:35).
- We are all immigrants in the Church: that is, we enter the Church through
- The Church is the pilgrim people of God, on the way to ‘our heavenly home’.
- Hospitality is part of our essential ecclesial identity; human encounter is
- As ‘Christ welcomes us’ (Romans 15:7), so do we welcome the stranger in
our pastoral care towards foreign students.
On the Reality
The phenomenon of student migration is complex.
It is a global reality, it is a gift also.
Students are ‘special’ migrants between continents,
within continents and within countries.
Various types of foreign students exist, for
- ‘free movers’: they are students who are self-financed and are culturally
- the ‘invited students’ who receive scholarships;
- refugee or ‘economic migrant’ students (who are sometimes illegal or
Also we can find various types of professors who are
It is important to know why students move and how they are recruited.
In any case, with the globalisation of learning,
university education has become a commodity, bought and sold. The Church
nevertheless believes that education is a public good, not just a commodity, and
that students are human persons who need to be respected as such.
Foreign student recruitment has
become also a global business.
The wealthy generally have open
access to higher education, while poor students face many challenges.
Many countries are privatising university education and for students its cost
can be a heavy burden.
University fees are often much higher for foreign students than for local
But some countries, agencies and universities offer scholarships.
Pastoral care for foreign students has an
ecumenical, an inter-religious and an intercultural dimension and is a
partnership involving the university, the host country and that of origin, the
local Churches and chaplaincies, as well as student organisations and the
foreign students themselves.
Pastoral welcome and solidarity is also a
‘bridge’ between peoples, but with the following consequences:
- Foreign students experience culture shock and secularisation, which sometimes
lead to the loss of faith. Students who are unprepared are also an easy target
for conversion to other denominations or religions (here the question of
proselytism and sects is to be considered). However many of them are an example
of faith in secularised areas.
- Some foreign students face a ‘double estrangement’: first from their host
country and then from their home country upon their return.
- Many foreign students initially plan to return home after their studies, but do
not do so for a variety of reasons (search for a better standard of living,
politically not safe to return, relationships)
- Foreign students seek more than just spiritual help: they also need concrete
- There is often little formal training for chaplains and pastoral agents
concerning the specific needs of the pastoral care for foreign students.
The pastoral care (ministry) for foreign students
takes on many different shapes and forms in different countries, but there are
many good, positive examples of welcome and solidarity (offering advocacy,
scholarships, housing, emergency funding, helping to obtain visas, etc.).
Responding to the specific needs of human mobility
(foreign students) is an important part of the Church’s mission. In fact:
- Chaplaincies create a place of meeting and sharing; a place of openness, free
- Some chaplaincies have a unique and specialized pastoral care for foreign
- Others incorporate foreign students into local chaplaincy programs or connect
them with the local parish.
- Many chaplains focus on hospitality and create ‘a safe place’ ministry.
- Liturgy is an important dimension of the Catholic pastoral care for foreign
- Therefore many chaplaincies offer Liturgies celebrated in their languages. When
Liturgy is held in the language of the host country, readings and hymns are to
be fittingly adapted to include foreign students.
- Spiritual, social and cultural events are of special importance
- Chaplains work with the “International Student Office” in the universities.
- “International Student Offices” provide opportunities for cultural
integration, as well as help and advice about visas, economic matters and
- In some countries, chaplaincies provide hostels for foreign students.
- Not every university chaplaincy has a priest.
- In any case, Catholic leaders are important for the students.
- Some of them desire to have contacts with the university chaplaincy in the host
country before they arrive.
- Sometimes Church pastors are so focused on other church issues that it is
difficult for them to emphasize or dedicate themselves to a specific pastoral
care for foreign students.
For Chaplains and University
As chaplains and university pastoral agents we have to:
- Seek time when foreign students can ‘speak about faith with pride’ and
humility and all will ‘listen with respect’. Dialogue is vital
also in these cases.
- Recognize that every encounter is at heart a reciprocal friendship; chaplaincy
is a path to developing a healthy community of friends in Christ and/or in
- Participate with joy in the festivals and cultural celebrations of foreign
students and, with deep sorrow, in their pains and fatigue.
- Remain in contact with alumni so that current foreign students will learn how
their predecessors contribute positively to their home country.
- Connect foreign students with good host families.
- Create a welcoming committee to foster communication between foreign students
and the Catholic community upon arrival.
- Listen with patience, sympathy and attentive ears to student reality,
recognising the importance of direct hospitality, if possible.
- Encourage collaboration between the university chaplain and pastoral agents, the
whole diocesan community and student organisations.
- Help foreign students find accommodations, assisting eventually and when
possible in their search for employment and finding financial sponsors (cfr. Gaudium
et Spes, 60, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, art. 26).
- Develop leadership qualities of foreign students for them to help one another
and to have their own cultural gifts valued by their host community. They must
also be capable of receiving from the latter (Church and society).
- Encourage foreign students to appreciate their vocation of service in their home
country, when they return, and to contribute to the transformation of their
countries human and spiritual condition.
- Create attractive web pages for chaplaincies, given that many foreign students
select their university through web searches.
- Not to forget the specific pastoral care for foreign students in the strict
sense of the word (Liturgy, Word of God, Sacraments, spiritual formation),
because of social issues.
- Work ecumenically, with a perspective of interdenominational education, open to
inter-religious dialogue, without forgetting each one’s own identity.
For Dioceses or Episcopal
We encourage them to:
- Make adequate provisions for chaplains and campus ministers at all higher
education institutions, taking care also of their preparation.
- Provide special services for foreign students who are identified as
“refugees” and IDPs, also by offering scholarships.
- Provide, as far as possible, social assistance to foreign students in need,
regarding their legal and social rights, and the necessary paper work.
- Establish appropriate contact with civil authorities, human rights
organisations, health and psychological organisations, etc., to improve the
condition of foreign students.
- Also invite foreign students to help create a pastoral plan for themselves.
Catholic student groups and student leaders in the chaplaincy play an important
role in the pastoral care of foreign students and in advocating on their behalf,
both in the university and in broader society.
- Help foreign students face the challenges of secularisation.
- Have a national, continental and universal vision of this specific pastoral
care. A national Bishop Promoter in this field could be appointed.
We would like to ask the Pontifical Council to:
- Help create the conviction that a worldwide directory of university chaplaincies
is important, so that from the grassroots level a form of cooperation would
emerge towards a concrete realisation of this project. It could be simpler to
start at the national level.
- Clarify the connections from chaplain to bishop, to national bishops’
conference and then to the offices of the Holy See.
- Encourage university chaplains to engage in appropriate ecumenical and
- Continue to gather chaplains from all over the world to share experiences and
deepen their understanding of the specific pastoral care for foreign
- Promote the pastoral care of foreign students in the local Churches.
- Encourage all Church authorities to adapt to the globalisation of
- On the diocesan, national, and international levels, to encourage effective
pastoral planning for the needs of foreign students.
- Continue to gather together members of the various Dicasteries of the Roman
Curia to respond together to the pastoral concerns of foreign students.
- Establish opportunities to study the worldwide realities of foreign students and
their economic, personal and spiritual needs.