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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move - N° 93,  December 2003, pp. 15-16

Welcome Address 

Card. Stephen Fumio HAMAO

President of the Pontifical Council for the

Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Your Eminences

Your Excellencies

Reverend Monsignors, Fathers, Sisters and Brothers

Distinguished guests

Brothers and sisters in Christ

It is my privilege to welcome this assembly of more than three hundred people to this opening of the Fifth World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees. It is truly a world congress, with more than a hundred nations represented in the three hundred people present in this hall.

I wish to welcome, first of all, the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman Curia. Your presence is a testimony of how this special area of pastoral care enters into the concerns of the whole Church represented by your Dicasteries.

To the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who are members of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, as well as to the Bishops, Clergy and Religious who are its Consultors, a warm welcome. Your task is to give direction and advice to our Council as it carries out its mission on a day to day basis. May this meeting help you in this task entrusted to you by the Holy Father.

At the heart of this Congress are the Archbishops, Bishops, priests and pastoral workers representing the pastoral structures for migrants and refugees of Local Churches throughout the world. Your presence and experiences are vital to this Fifth World Congress. You are welcome. We expect that your contributions will enrich all of us here – in terms of knowledge as well as spiritual fervor -- and we hope this week together will be encouraging and enlightening for you. Many of you have sacrificed to be with us. Thank you for these efforts, especially on the part of those who have had difficulties in obtaining visas and documents. Your stories of getting to Rome are also a reminder of the daily hassle that migrants and refugees face at borders all over the world in their efforts to make a better living and even simply to survive.

Among those who contribute in a special way to the efforts of local Churches are the men and women of various religious congregations who have made service of migrants and refugees an important part of their activities, some being dedicated entirely to this service. Our Pontifical Council has often encouraged the presence of religious in this apostolate. We are happy you are represented here and grateful for the way the presence of your confreres and sisters have so often been a blessing for people on the move.

Our Congress is also privileged to have the presence of special guests in the persons of Fraternal Delegates representing the Orthodox Churches and Churches and Ecclesial Communities within the World Council of Churches. There are many good experiences of Ecumenical cooperation that have benefited refugees and migrants and brought Christian communities, separated on confessional lines, closer together. May this World Congress strengthen the bonds of communion existing among us and be a step forward towards the unity among the disciples of Christ for which Our Lord prayed.

We welcome the Ambassadors and representatives from diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See, members of inter-governmental organizations, and the Italian authorities. Thank you for being with us and showing the importance that questions of migrants and refugees have for those who bear the responsibility of governance in our world today.

Last but not least, a warm welcome to experts in academic fields related to our pastoral concerns as well as to representatives of associations, movements and organizations that are directly and indirectly concerned with migrants and refugees. We appreciate the need for scholarly research and discussions as well as the activities that on a day to day basis contribute to forming a culture of welcome and appreciation of the gifts that migrants and refugees can bring to a host society. May this Congress will open up ways in the future for a closer collaboration and exchange of insights.

We all make present, in some way, the 175 million international migrants and 40 million refugees and displaced people throughout the world as well as the Church’s pastoral concern for them. They have a right to know Christ and experience his love for all men and women of all nations, ethnic groups and from all history. We are, if I may borrow an expression from Blessed Mother Theresa, his hands, his ears, his heart. Confident that the Lord will assist in this mission that He has entrusted to us, we go forward. To all, buon lavoro.