Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
on the Move
N° 96, December 2004
MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
FOR THE 91st WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS
AND REFUGEES 2005
(theme: “Intercultural Integration”)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. The World Day of Migrants and Refugees is at hand. In the annual Message I
usually address to you on this occasion, I would like this time to consider the
phenomenon of migration from the perspective of integration.
Many people use this word to denote the need for immigrants to be truly
incorporated in the host country, but neither the content of this concept
nor its practice is easy to define. In this regard I would like to sketch the
picture by recalling the recent Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi
(The love of Christ towards migrants) (cf. nos. 2, 42, 43, 62, 80, 89).
In this Document, integration is not presented as an assimilation that leads
migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, contact
with others leads to discovering their “secret”, to being open to them in
order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute toknowing each one better. This is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making
them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human
beings. In this process the migrant is intent on taking the necessary steps
towards social inclusion, such as learning the national language and complying
with the laws and requirements at work, so as to avoid the occurrence of
I will not deal with the various aspects of integration. All I desire on this
occasion is to go deeper with you into some implications of its intercultural
2. No one is unaware of the identity conflict that often comes about in the
meeting of persons of different cultures. Positive elements do exist in this. By
introducing themselves into a new environment, immigrants often become more
aware of who they are, especially when they miss the persons and values that are
important to them.
In our society, characterized by the global phenomenon of migration, individuals
must seek the proper balance between respect for their own identity and
recognition of that of others. Indeed, it is necessary to recognize the
legitimate plurality of cultures present in a country, in harmony with the
preservation of law and order, on which depend social peace and the freedom of
Indeed, it is essential to exclude on the one hand assimilationist models that
tend to transform those who are different into their own copy, and on the other,
models of marginalization of immigrants, with attitudes that can even arrive at
the choice of apartheid. The way to take is the path of genuine
integration (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, no. 102) with an open outlook that
refuses to consider solely the differences between immigrants and the local
people (cf. Message for World Day for Peace 2001, no. 12).
3. Thus the need arose for a dialogue between people of different cultures in a
context of pluralism that goes beyond mere tolerance and reaches sympathy. A
simple juxtaposition of groups of migrants and locals tends to encourage a
reciprocal closure between cultures, or the establishment, among them, of
relations that are merely superficial or tolerant. We should encourage instead a
mutual fecundation of cultures. This implies reciprocal knowledge and openness
between cultures, in a context of true understanding and benevolence.
Christians, conscious on their part of the transcendent action of the Spirit,
can also recognize in the various cultures the presence of “precious elements
of religion and humanity” (cf. Gaudium et Spes, no. 92) that can offer
solid prospects of mutual understanding. It will, of course, be necessary to
combine the principle of respect for cultural differences with the protection of
values that are in common and inalienable, because they are founded on universal
human rights. This gives rise to that atmosphere of “civic reasonableness”
that permits friendly and serene coexistence.
Moreover, if they are coherent with themselves, Christians cannot give up
proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15).
Obviously, they must do so with respect for the conscience of others, always
resorting to the method of charity, as St Paul had already recommended to the
early Christians (cf. Eph 4:15).
4. The image from the Prophet Isaiah, to which I have several times referred at
the meetings with the youth of the whole world (cf. Is 21:11-12), could
also be used here to invite all believers to be “morning watchmen”. As such,
Christians must above all listen to the cry for help that comes from a multitude
of migrants and refugees, but they must then foster, with active commitment,
prospects of hope that will herald the dawn of a more open and supportive
society. It is up to them in the first place to make out God's presence in
history, even when everything still seems to be enveloped in darkness.
With this hope, which I transform into prayer to God who wants to gather every
nation and every language around him (cf. Is 66:18), I send to each one
of you my Blessing with deep affection.
From the Vatican, 24 November 2004
Paulus PP II