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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 101 (Suppl.), August 2006



Vatican Radio Interview 

with Archbishop Agostino Marchetto 


The XVII Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People will meet from May 15-17, 2006 on the theme: “Migration and Itinerancy From and Towards the Countries with an Islamic Majority”.


Q. Why has this theme been chosen?

A. The phenomenon of emigration (for economic reasons or for study, or also because of force) is a sign of the times – as stated in the Holy Father’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year – to which our Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi (EMCC), approved by John Paul II on May 1, 2004, gave an ecclesial response and updated the related pastoral care.

As a result, more than ever, for us this is the time for dialogue with other religions, the ones of migrants, a dialogue that is surely not opposed to the new evangelization to which John Paul II often called us. This question is dealt with extensively in EMCC (Nos. 59-69), which pays special attention to the Muslim migrants (Nos. 65-68 and also 61-64). It cannot be forgotten, however, that many Christians, for migration or itinerancy (the other field of the concern given to us by the Supreme Pontiff), also land on the shores of the Land of Islam. So this is the reason for the wording of the theme, “Migration and Itinerancy From and Towards the Countries with an Islamic Majority”. 

Q. Who will take part in the meeting?

A. It’s easier said than done: the Members and Consultors of our Pontifical Council, with a group of international experts from around the world, in all about sixty people, in addition to the Superiors and Officials of the Dicastery led by our new President, His Eminence Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino. Our reflection, dialogue and prayers will be crowned with the Audience the Holy Father will grant us, from whom we will receive “a divine sign for a new path” that is surely in continuity with what the Second Vatican Council indicated regarding the specific pastoral care of human mobility, which is alongside the territorial, parish and ordinary pastoral care. And integration between the two is also necessary. 

Q. You mentioned experts: who are they?

A. If we may begin with ourselves, His Eminence Cardinal Martino will present the theme of the Plenary as it results from the recent documents and congresses of our Pontifical Council. I will explain the Dicastery’s thinking, work and changes since the last “Plenary”. The well-known Father Maurice Borrmans, M. Afr., will outline the general situation regarding the life of Christians in the countries with an Islamic majority. This will be followed by another presentation of the general situation of Islamic-Christian dialogue by His Excellency Pier Luigi Celata, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Two other fundamental interventions will be made by the Most Rev. Giovanni Lajolo, the Secretary for Relations with the States in the Secretariat of State, and His Excellency Robert Sarah, the Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. They will present the prospects for improving the situation, respectively from an overall view, and from the African viewpoint, which we have very much at heart.

Of course, there will also be room for questions, proposals, observations, let’s say various matters. 

Q. Will there also be interventions in the various specific sectors of human mobility?

A. Of course. We have planned for the two sub-themes – “Migration and Itinerancy from the Countries with an Islamic majority” and “towards the same countries” – to be presented by “experts” in the field, in correspondence, we might say, with our sectors of migrants, refugees, foreign students, nomads and circus people, the apostleship of the sea, the pastoral care of the road and civil aviation (airports), and of tourism and pilgrimages. So I think that the Plenary will be of great interest, and not only for the “insiders”, because of its worldwide perspective on a theme that is certainly very current.