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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 101, August 2006






CA               Centesimus Annus (Giovanni Paolo II)

EMCC         Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi (The Love of Christ towards Migrants), 2004.

FC               John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, on the Role of the Family in the Modern World, 1981.

GS               Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, on the Church in the Modern World, 1965.

LG               Lumen Gentium(Concilio Vaticano II)

Message      Pontifical Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

NMI            Novo Millennio Ineunte (Giovanni Paolo II)

IOM            International Organization for Migration.

PaG            Pastores Gregis (Giovanni Paolo II)

PT               John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in Terris, on Establishing Universal Peace, 1963.

UN               United Nations.


PP               Populorum Progressio

RH               Redemptor Hominis (Giovanni Paolo II)

RMi             Redemptoris Missio (Giovanni Paolo II)

TMA            Tertio Millenio Adveniente (Giovanni Paolo II)





Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO


Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care

of Migrants and Itinerant People





The Challenge of the Migration 

Phenomenon Today


Human mobility is a very complex phenomenon. It would be enough to mention the various categories of people on the move entrusted to our Pontifical Council to demonstrate this: migrants for economic reasons, refugees, asylum seekers and trafficked internally displaced persons, as well as foreign students. Then there are itinerant people, under which are classified seafarers, fishermen, passengers and workers in cruise ships, etc., flight personnel and passengers, airport workers, nomads, circus and carnival people, persons travelling on the road and living in the street, tourists and tour operators, and pilgrims.

Migrants are people who leave their homelands generally on a long-term basis, if not permanently, although seasonal migrants, internal migrants and foreign students also belong to this category. Among them, there are those who move or travel freely and voluntarily, while others (refugees) are forced to do so. 


The Migration Phenomenon Today


The United Nations Population Division (UNPD) estimated a total of between 185 million and 192 million migrants by early 2005 (cf. IOM, World Migration Report 2005). Although migrants comprise a low proportion of the global population, their presence and visibility in social, economic and political terms can be significant, particularly given the uncounted number of irregular migrants. The majority of migrants are concentrated in a relatively small number of countries, mostly industrialized ones. However, you may be surprised to know that India is among them. The latest available statistics rank it sixth, with 6.3 million immigrants. Of all migrants, almost half are women. Their proportion with respect to the total migrant population is higher in developed countries than in developing countries. It must also be noted that while there was a small increase (1.4%) in the share of women migrants globally, their percentage declined in the developing world, specifically in Asia. Increasing feminisation of international migration therefore is neither uniform nor universal.

The International Organization for Migration (World Migration Report 2005, Introduction) affirms that migration flows have shifted in recent years with the changing poles of attraction for labour migration. As an example, more Asians are finding job opportunities within Asia itself, while more Latin Americans are moving to work in Europe. High labour force participation by migrants in Europe, the United States and Australia is a confirmation that economic incentives remain high for migration to those market economies. It also mentions the significant contribution of migration to population growth in Australia, the United States and some European countries. However, it laments the fact that reliable data on actual migration flows continue to be scarce. It asserts that the world is changing, and migration is contributing to that change. For instance, Ireland, traditionally a country of emigration, had one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in Europe in the early years of the 21st century. Moreover, the nature of migration is also changing. In the United Kingdom, for example, history and geographic proximity are no longer the primary drivers of migration, as more countries outside the British Commonwealth and the European Union have become large net “exporters of people” to the United Kingdom.


Migration in Asia


Already in 2000, Asia accounted for 25 per cent of the world’s international migrants. In particular, international labour migration from and within Asia expanded rapidly from 1970 onwards. Following the sharp increase in the oil price in 1973, the oil-producing countries of Western Asia accelerated the intake of foreign workers, initially for the construction of needed infrastructure. International labour migrants in the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rose from an estimated 1 million in 1970 to 4 million in 1980, and to 9.6 million in 2000. Of these 5.3 million resided in Saudi Arabia. It is estimated that by 2000, international migrants constituted 38 per cent of the population in Bahrain, 49 per cent in Kuwait, 26 per cent in Oman, 70 per cent in Qatar, 24 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 68 per cent in the United Arab Emirates. As migration increased, workers were recruited from more distant origins. While in the 1970s migrant workers had mostly been “imported” from other Arab countries, by the late 1970s they were being recruited from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and soon also from several East and Southeast Asian countries, especially the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and, later, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Still according to the IOM 2005 Report (Chapter 6), Asia is, at present, the primary source of family and authorized economic migration of all forms in the world. Almost one-third of all immigrants in Australia are from Asia, primarily from China, the Philippines and India. Similarly, 33 per cent of immigrants in Canada and 24 per cent of immigrants in the United States are from Asia. Recently, Asian migration to Europe, especially from China, has also significantly increased. The nine largest Asian migrant sending countries are the Philippines, India (with some 20 million citizens outside its territory), Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. They contribute between one-half and two-thirds of all legal immigrants and refugees to the international migration stream.


Asian migration flows are characterized by the following features:


i) They are a more legally organized “industry”, both publicly and privately, than in other world regions, involving migration-promoting Government programmes and innumerable legal and regulated immigration brokers throughout the region. India has a new Ministry of Information Technology which deals with the emigration of IT (Information Technology) professionals. 

ii) Several countries are simultaneously significant “exporters” and “importers” of foreign labour. India, in fact, hosts the largest number of immigrants in Asia (6.3 million) and is origin of the second largest number of emigrants from Asia (20 million).

iii) The population of the region’s main sending states – China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, Bangladesh and the Philippines – account for nearly half the world’s population.

The dominant “push” factors continue to be inadequate economic opportunities and high unemployment, particularly in South Asia. “Pull” factors include expanding markets, labour shortfalls due to ageing populations in the more industrialized countries of the region (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and increasingly also China), and a continuing need for workers in the Gulf States (despite the current slowdown there). Increasingly, irregular forms of migration contribute to the expansion of migration flows, including the smuggling and trafficking of persons. For these reasons, all forms of migration in Asia are expected to grow in the coming years.

Lately, two aspects of international labour migration in Asia have become particularly significant: a major shift in destinations and an increase in irregular migration. The number of workers migrating within Asia has increased as compared to the fewer numbers of migrants now moving to the Middle East. India, in fact, tends to send large numbers of migrants to East and Southeast Asia rather than to the Middle East. At the same time, there have been significant increases in irregular migration between Asian countries. India is not exempt from this as we shall discuss further below. Both elements are a new dimension to the more traditional labour movements and illustrate the impact of globalization on migration.

Nonetheless, Asia also offers some excellent examples of how the benefits of labour emigration can be reaped through remittances and proactive diaspora management. India and the Philippines are two of the largest beneficiaries of remittances the world over. In 2002, India received US$8.41 billion in remittances, equivalent to 1.65% of its GDP (gross domestic product). Remittance flows are also increasingly important for Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. For some countries, remittance flows are a valuable strategic means to counteract the “brain drain” they may be experiencing.


Irregular migration in Asia


With the increase in intra-regional labour migrants throughout Asia, irregular migration also grows. Malaysia and Thailand currently seem to have the largest numbers of irregular workers, estimated to be about 500,000 to one million unauthorized migrant workers. Many unauthorized workers from Indonesia and Thailand fill rural labour shortages in Malaysia. In 2004, Malaysian government records showed that only 65,329 of an estimated 102,555 foreign plantation workers were properly documented. Another estimated one million undocumented migrants in Malaysia are pushed by poor economic conditions and internal conflicts in neighbouring countries. Though itself a source of undocumented migrant workers, Thailand struggles with the implications of undocumented migration at home as well. The number of unauthorized workers in Thailand is estimated at 943,000, three times as many as legal immigrants.  

In South Asia, all countries have long land borders with two or more neighbouring countries. Inevitably, irregular border crossings are both numerous and difficult to control. Hence, it is difficult to obtain reliable statistics in this regard. They include traditional seasonal movements of Nepalese and Bangladeshi migrants to India during the harvesting season. As in many other places in Asia, people find it hard to understand the notion of “borders”, as everybody has either family or working relations with people on the other side. Poverty and unemployment are the main driving forces of irregular migration, while ineffective border controls, increased labour demand added to restrictive labour policies in some areas, and political tension between bordering countries increase migration pressures. India and Pakistan are also major transit areas for irregular migrants from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan on their way to the Middle East and Europe. Unfortunately, for this region we have no statistics in this regard.


The Challenge of Migration Today


First aspect: The right to remain in one’s homeland 


Strange, but true, the first aspect of the challenge goes against the migration phenomenon itself. In fact, because of the uprooting that it entails, any form of migration inevitably involves some kind of suffering often caused by injustice. This is why the Church has always upheld, first of all, the right of every person to remain in his own country[1]. The General Assembly of the United Nations itself issued a resolution[2]inviting “governments, with the assistance of the international community … to seek to make the option of remaining in one’s own country viable for all people, in particular through efforts to achieve sustainable development, leading to a better economic balance between developed and developing countries”.  

The fact that not all citizens of a country, but only some, feel “compelled” to move is an indication of a certain degree of injustice and social inequality that has to be remedied. “The right not to emigrate,” stated Pope John Paul II[3], “[is] the right to live in peace and dignity in one's own country. By means of a farsighted local and national administration, more equitable trade and supportive international cooperation, it is possible for every country to guarantee its own population, in addition to freedom of expression and movement, the possibility to satisfy basic needs such as food, health care, work, housing and education; the frustration of these needs forces many into a position where their only option is to emigrate.”

The “society that the emigrant is often compelled to leave because of the hard conditions in which he is obliged to live” has to take its responsibilities and make every effort “to avoid the emigrant's enforced departure”[4]. It would also be necessary for the Church to take up its preferential option for the poor in this regard and its fight against poverty specifically in the countries where migrants originate[5].


Second aspect: The right to emigrate 


Unfortunately, there are times, and today this is becoming more often, when it appears necessary to leave one’s homeland. This, too, is a human right, stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[6]. The encyclical of Blessed John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, goes a step further and not only asserts the mere right to leave but also assures the right to immigrate into another country.[7] 

Many potential migrants dream of going to a country that is “flowing with milk and honey”. They see it in television programs and hear about it from recruitment agents. They can also be enticed by relatives and friends who are already there and fed with erroneous information for various reasons. It is therefore important to provide these people with accurate information regarding the opportunities that really exist in their destination countries and those that do not, as well as the very real dangers that they have to face. 

In fact, the First International Meeting of Pastoral Care for the Liberation of Women of the Street, organized by our Pontifical Council in Rome in June 2005[8], observed that many women leave situations of poverty in their country of origin, believing that the job being offered overseas will change their lives. Instead they find themselves trafficked and exploited in prostitution and in other forms of human slavery. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that some 12.3 million people are currently enslaved in enforced and bonded labour, of whom about 2.4 million are victims of the trafficking “industry”, which reaps an annual income estimated at US$ 10 billion. 

Third aspect: Finding an equilibrium between the States’ right to protect its borders and human rights


The Church recognizes the right of States to control their borders and the entry of persons in their territory – to guarantee security, basic human rights and freedoms – considering it in line with the protection of the common good[9]. This, however, should not come in conflict with the right of migrants to be treated always with the respect due to every human person. “The challenge is to combine the welcome that every human being deserves, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life”[10]


Fourth aspect: Irregular migration


Severe immigration laws and restrictive immigration policies, including a limit to migrants’ access to social services, have not discouraged international migration. Regarding its irregular form, they have actually helped increase it and the considerable risk it involves. Some have turned to smugglers to enter another country often in return for large sums of money given to them. Yet, despite such investments, there are those who have lost their lives in rivers or the high seas, or on desert “roads”. 

Those who finally manage to enter another country irregularly may find that, instead of the honest and well-paying job promised to them, they could end up exploited in prostitution, indentured labor, slave-like services or even the extraction of organs. Unwittingly, they may have become victims of trafficking in human beings.

Migrants in an irregular situation are vulnerable. Although they conserve their human dignity and rights, these are not guaranteed by law. Thus it can be easy to enjoy economic gains at their expense. Protecting the rights of irregular migrants, therefore, would be an important step forward in stopping migrant abuse and exploitation.

In this regard, it is important to ratify or accede to the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of their Families[11], which does not make distinctions between migrants in a regular and in an irregular situation when it comes to safeguarding their fundamental human rights.


Fifth aspect: Migration of women and families[12]


An important characteristic of contemporary migration is the increasing proportion of women involved in it. In many parts of the world, women’s rights need to be defended. Thus those of a migrant woman have to be safeguarded twice. 

The right to migrate includes “the right to emigrate as a family”[13]as well the right to remain with one's family.[14]Family separation brings about problems for the stability of the couple and of the family itself, as well as for the education of the children. It is even worse when the absent spouse is the woman because, normally, it is mainly the wife and mother who takes care of the home and the upbringing of the children. 

Christian communities in host countries are called to solidarity and burden sharing with migrant families. Papal documents appeal to them to accept immigrants so that no one is without a family in this world. The Church should be that family, especially for the heavily burdened.


Sixth aspect: Welcome and solidarity


Already in the Old Testament God commanded that foreigners be well-treated. In the Book of Exodus He commanded: “You will not molest or oppress aliens, for you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt” (Ex 22:20). The Church, which “has always contemplated the image of Christ” in migrants[15], has great concerns for them, particularly for the serious problems they face.

For programs in the field of migration to be effective, collaboration between the countries of origin and destination is necessary, to ensure the protection of the rights of migrants and their families, as well as of the members of the local receiving population.[16]Moreover, pastoral care in this area requires close cooperation between the Church of origin and the receiving Church.[17] 


Seventh aspect: Migration and the resulting mix of traditions, cultures and religions


The coexistence of cultures, religions and beliefs, caused by migration, could be an enrichment, but it has also caused tension which has persisted, and considerably, in some cases. Antidote to this tension is dialogue, that leads to the recognition of values in common and to an attitude of respect for legitimate differences[18]. The Church has a special role in this area, as we will see in another presentation.  


Eighth aspect: Extending pastoral care to Catholics and beyond the Catholic Church


An authentic culture of welcome does not make distinctions in terms of nationality, color or creed. It is “fully based on love for Christ, in the certainty that good done out of love of God to one’s neighbour, especially the most needy, is done to Him”[19]

Thus we provide pastoral care to Catholic migrants, including those of the Catholic Eastern Churches. With migrants of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, ecumenical dialogue is carried out, especially in the “ecumenism of daily life”. For migrants who are believers of other religions, “the Church is also concerned with their human development and with the witness of Christian charity”.[20]We also have to deal with migrants who have no religious convictions but are of goodwill. 

We will have the chance to discuss this further.




The challenge of migration today has several and varied under-pinnings. It can however be summarized in the following question: How to transform the world in which we live, migrants and local population alike, into a united world of brothers and sisters and to reach every person and community involved in the phenomenon of migration, so as to penetrate this portion of humankind with the love of Christ, seeking communion of all who follow God with a sincere heart or are women and men of good will. To you also the answer.





La sfida del fenomeno migratorio oggi


I migranti costituiscono una bassa percentuale rispetto a tutta la popolazione mondiale, eppure la loro presenza e visibilità in termini sociali, economici e politici possono essere significative, soprattutto per l’esistenza di un numero non ben precisato dei migranti in situa-zione irregolare. La maggioranza di essi si trovano in relativamente pochi paesi, soprattutto industrializzati. Quasi la metà sono donne.

In questi ultimi anni la direzione dei flussi migratori ha subito variazioni. Sempre di più gli asiatici trovano lavoro nel continente asiatico stesso, mentre aumentano il numero di latinoamericani che cercano lavoro in Europa. I migranti sono una parte significativa della forza lavoro negli Stati Uniti, in Canada, Europa e Australia, e danno un contributo importante alla crescita di queste popolazioni. Insomma, il mondo sta cambiando e le migrazioni sono uno dei fattori di tale cambiamento.

Attualmente, ovunque l’Asia è la fonte principale delle migrazioni per motivi di famiglia e per tutte le forme di migrazione economica autorizzata. In questo continente le migrazioni sono un’industria legalmente organizzata, inclusa addirittura nei programmi dei governi. Molti paesi asiatici sono al tempo stesso origine e destino dei lavoratori stranieri.

I principali paesi d’origine asiatici risultano essere la Cina, l’India, l’Indonesia, il Pakistan, la Tailandia, il Bangladesh e le Filippine, nei quali vive circa la metà della popolazione mondiale. Mentre in passato il Medio Oriente era la meta prediletta, ora i migranti tendono a viaggiare verso i Paesi dell’Asia orientale e del sudest asiatico.

Ma con l’aumento delle migrazioni autorizzate sono cresciuti anche i movimenti irregolari.

Le sfide che le migrazioni odierne pongono sono: 1) il diritto delle persone a risiedere nella propria patria, ossia, il diritto di non emigrare; 2) il diritto di lasciare il proprio paese, o di emigrare, se ritenuto necessario; 3) trovare l’equilibrio tra il diritto degli Stati di proteggere le proprie frontiere e i diritti umani di chi vuole invece attraversarle; 4) le crescenti migrazioni irregolari; 5) le migrazioni delle donne e delle famiglie; 6) accoglienza e solidarietà; 7) migrazioni e conseguente mescolanza di tradizioni, culture e religioni; 8) la pastorale per i migranti cattolici e al di là della Chiesa cattolica.

In conclusione, le sfide nel mondo delle migrazioni si possono sintetizzare oggi in questa domanda: Come trasformare il mondo in cui viviamo noi, migranti e popolazione locale, in un mondo di fratelli e sorelle e offrire alla parte di umanità coinvolta nel fenomeno migratorio l’amore di Cristo.


[1]PT 25: “Every human being has the right to freedom of movement andof residence within the confines of his own country.” See also EMCC 29.

[2]UN Resolution 59/241, of 22 December 2004.

[3]Message in 2004, no. 3. See People on the Move (April 2004), no. 94, p. 20.

[4]Message for World Migration Day in 1974.

[5]See Pontificio Consiglio della Giustizia e della Pace, Compendio della Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa, n. 449,Vatican City 2004, p. 246.

[6]art. 13: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” See also EMCC 29.

[7]PT 25, 106: “Every human being has …, when there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there. It is therefore the duty of State officials to accept such immigrants and — so far as the good of their own community, rightly understood, permits — to further the aims of those who may wish to become members of a new society.”



20210605_Iinc- past-don-strada-findoc_en.html

[9]Pope John Paul II confirms this in his Message in 2001 (http://www. vatican. va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/messages/migration/documents/hf_

jpii_mes_20010213_worldmi-tion-day-2001_en.html): “Certainly, the exercise of such a right [to enter another country] is to be regulated, because practicing it indiscriminately may do harm and be detrimental to the common good of the community that receives the migrant. Before the manifold interests that are interwoven side by side with the laws of the individual countries, it is necessary to have international norms that are capable of regulating everyone’s rights, so as to prevent unilateral decisions that are harmful to the weakest” (no. 3).

[10]Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2001, no. 13 (



[11]See EMCC 6 for an appeal in this regard.

[12]See EMCC 5.

[13]FC 46. 

[14]GS66 has a clear statement on this that builds on earlier teachings of John XXIII and Pius XII: “All the people . . . must treat them [migrants] not as mere tools of production but as persons, and must help them to bring their families to live with them.”

[15]Cf. EMCC 12



[18]See EMCC 34-36; 56-59; 69.

[19]Cf. EMCC 41.

[20]EMCC 59.





Migration, Sign of the Times 

and Solicitude of the Church


This is the first of talks on the content of the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, issued by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, on May 3, 2004, with the explicit approval of the Holy Father, given on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, May 1st, of the same year, a very meaningful date. 

As the document itself states, the prime purpose of its publication is “to respond to the new spiritual and pastoral needs of migrants and to make migration more and more an instrument of dialogue and proclamation of the Christian message”. To be able to do this, let us first of all examine the migration phenomenon which the first part of the Instruction identifies as a “sign of the times” and solicitude of the Church.


Signs of the times


The source of the expression “signs of the times” can be found in a conversation between Jesus and a group of Pharisees and Sadducees who wanted to test him. This is the relative text in St. Matthew (16:1-4): 

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He said to them in reply, “In the evening you say, ‘Tomorrow will be fair, for the sky is red’; and, in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times. An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be givenit except the sign of Jonah.” 

It is evident that by “signs of the times” Jesus was referring to events that are somehow an indication of certain realities. He, in fact, mentions the sign of Jonah, which is a powerful “typos”, image, sign of his death and resurrection (sensus plenior), the fulfilment (the plenitude) of his mission. 

The Church – defined by Lumen Gentium (n. 9) also as the People of God – is charged to “carry forward the work of Christ Himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit” (GS 3) and offers its assistance to mankind “in fostering that brotherhood of all men” which is its destiny (cf. GS 3). To carry out its mission, the Church walks through history to share with all human beings their joys and hopes, griefand anxieties (cf. GS 1) and is duty-bound to scrutinize “the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” (GS 4), under the guidance of the Magisterium. In this way, she is also able to "respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other” (ibid.), with the use of a language that is “intelligible to each generation” (ibid.) and culture. This will also enable us, sons and daughters of the Church, to identify and understand “the world in which we live, its expectations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics” (ibid.).

This is therefore not a sociological interpretation of human realities, but a reading, in the light of faith, as Gaudium et Spes aptly states: “The People of God believes that it is led by the Lord's Spirit, Who fills the earth. Motivated by this faith, it labors to decipher authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires in which this People has a part along with other men of our age. For faith throws a new light on everything, manifests God's design for man's total vocation, and thus directs the mind to solutions which are fully human” (GS 11). Thus, the realities to scrutinize, always and in all times, are those events, yearnings and exigencies experienced by mankind. They are changeable and subject to dynamics that function within the bounds of time, while the duty to interpret them – thus capturing their true meaning, under the guid-ance of the light of faith (lumen fidei) – is permanent.

Of the features of the contemporary world identified by Gaudium et Spes, one is the spread of “profound and rapid changes … triggered by the intelligence and creative energies of man[, that] … recoil upon him, upon his decisions and desires, both individual and collective, and upon his manner of thinking and acting with respect to things and to people” (n. 4). We are therefore before “a true cultural and social transformation, … which has repercussions on man's religious life as well” (n. 4) and among the phenomena included in this process of transformation, the document explicitly mentions migration. I quote:

It is also noteworthy how many men are being induced to migrate on various counts, and are thereby changing their manner of life. Thus a man's ties with his fellows are constantly being multiplied, and at the same time "socialization" brings further ties, without however always promoting appropriate personal development and truly personal relationships (GS 6).


Migration, a sign of the times


Almost forty years later, the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi scrutinizes again migration, considering it “a significant sign of the times, a challenge to be discovered and utilised in our work to renew humanity and proclaim the gospel of peace” (EMCC 14). It observes that the phenomenon has moved forward through the years and now it “helps people get to know one another and provides opportunity for dialogue and communion or indeed integration at various levels” (no. 2). It cites Pope John Paul II’s Message for the World Day for Peace in 2001 (no. 12), which affirmed that “in the case of many civilisations, immigration has brought new growth and enrichment” or at least the “chance” to live together in harmony (cf. no. 2).

Moreover, today’s migration imposes a “passage from monocul-tural to multicultural societies [which] can be a sign of the living presence of God in history and in the community of mankind, for it offers a providential opportunity for the fulfilment of God’s plan for a universal communion… Unlike the past, diversity is becoming com-monplace in very many countries” (EMCC 9). In this context Christians are called not only to practice the spirit of tolerance, but also to respect the other person’s identity. This opens the way towards sharing with people of different origins and cultures including a “respectful proclamation” of the Christian faith (cf. ibid. 9). Here we face the intercultural question.


Migration and the People of God


In this perspective, migration can be approached “in the light of those biblical events that mark the phases of humanity’s arduous journey towards the birth of a people without discrimination or frontiers” (no. 13). From Abraham to Isaac, to Jacob, migration accompanied the Patriarchs’ answer to God’s call and promise to become a great nation. “After its long servitude in Egypt, Israel received its solemn investiture as the ‘People of God’ during its forty-year ‘Exodus’ through the desert” (no. 14). Migration and deportation are fundamental events in the history of the chosen people. 

The new one, the Church, “was born from Pentecost, … a real and symbolic meeting of peoples, … [among whom] ‘there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised and the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and freeman’ (Col 3:11) … for Christ [has] ‘broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart’ (Eph 2:14)” (EMCC no. 16). Thus, “the peculiarities of migrants is an appeal for us to live again the fraternity of Pentecost, when differences are harmonized by the Spirit and charity becomes authentic in accepting one another” (no. 18). The presence of foreigners is also “a visible sign and an effective reminder of that universality which is a constituent element of the Catholic Church” (no. 17). While today’s migration can “be seen as a call and prefiguration of the final meeting of all humanity with God and in God” (ibid. 17), “migrants’ journeying can … become a living sign of an eternal vocation, a constant stimulus to that hope which points to a future beyond this present world, inspiring the transformation of the world in love and eschatological victory... So the experience of migration can be the announcement of the paschal mystery, in which death and resurrection make for the creation of a new humanity in which there is no longer slave or foreigner (cf. Gal 3:28).” (no. 18).


Migration, towards the birth of a new humanity


The suffering and pain that accompany migration are nothing else but “the birth-pangs of a new humanity” (no. 12) and “the inequalities and disparities behind this suffering reveal the deep wounds that sin causes in the human family. They are thus an urgent appeal for true fraternity” (ibid. 12) and the Church needs to respond to it if it is to be faithful to its vocation.


Migration, concern for the Church


Indeed the plight of the people involved in the phenomenon of migration (cf. EMCC 1) is a source of concern for the Church, who “has always contemplated the image of Christ” in migrants (cf. no. 12). She knows the serious problems they face: discrimination, racism and xenophobia1, deception regarding contracts or conditions of work, being treated as tools and not as persons, dangerous occupations, long working hours, lower pay than that of native workers for the same job2, poor housing or none, non-integration into social life, and so on3.


Women and families in migration


The Church also sees the increasing proportion of women involved in migration. In particular, many of them are hired for domestic services, which are very vulnerable jobs, given the impossibility to draw a line between working and non-working hours while in the employer’s house. There are also those who are employed in the entertainment industry, who could end up involved in far from desirable activities. The Church is also aware that family separation is a fundamental difficulty in migration. 

Yet, even when whole families migrate, problems do not disappear. They experience cultural gaps from their culture of origin, without being duly prepared for it. They have to learn another language. There are intergenerational problems linked to the difficult mix of traditions and customs of the countries of origin and of arrival, psychological trauma, the sense of insecurity and uncertainty about the future. Depending upon the capacity of husband and wife to cope with the situation, accord between the couple may either become more solid, or fall into pieces.


Some teachings of the Church on migration


The message of Church documents and teaching – as an expression of her concern – to governments and others responsible for these difficult situations is clear: They must protect migrants from the evils involved in migration (cf. EMCC 30) and work together with all nations to deal with it at its roots, which could mean, for instance, seeking a just global economic order.4 Local Churches have a special call to solidarity with people involved in migration and to formation of public opinion to promote justice for them.5 We therefore have to consider these questions indeveloping our programs of education and pastoral care.

In particular, for programs in the field of migration to be effective, collaboration between the countries of origin and destination is necessary, as well as “adequate norms capable of harmonizing the various legislative provisions” (EMCC8). This will ensure the protection of the rights of migrants and their families, as well as of the members of the local receiving population (ibid.8). Similarly, pastoral care in this area requires close cooperation between the Church of origin and the receiving Church (Seeno.70), as will be underlined in another lecture. 

As we can see from recent pontifical declarations, pastoral perspectives and horizons regarding migration have been developed according to the vision of “man as the way of the Church” (RH 14), emphasizing the rights of the human person, denouncing social and economic imbalances, the dangers of uncontrolled globalisation and the serious problem of irregular migration, which could come hand with the smuggling and trafficking of human beings (cf. EMCC 29).

The Magisterium of the Church also emphasizes the “formation of multicultural [and inter-cultural] societies through migration” (no. 30), acknowledging that “cultural plurality invites contemporary man to practice dialogue” (no. 30). It considers dialogue as “the as yet imperfect and ever evolving realization of that final unity to which humanity aspires and is called” (ibid. 30).


Specific expressions of the Church’s solicitude 


A tangible sign of the Church’s concern for migrants is the establishment of specific “structures” for their pastoral care. The central organ is the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, charged with the task “to stimulate, promote and animate opportune pastoral initiatives in favour of those who by choice or through necessity leave their normal place of residence, as well as to carefully follow the social, economic and cultural questions that are usually at the origin of such movements” (EMCC 32; cf. ibid. art. 22).

The Pontifical Council is directly in contact with the Episcopal Conferences and their Regional or Continental Councils, through the Episcopal Commissions for questions on human mobility in general, or specifically on migration, and with the corresponding Episcopal Structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as with the individual Bishops and Hierarchs. They are kindly urged to “implement a specific pastoral care for persons involved in the ever growing phenomenon of human mobility and to adopt suitable provisions as called for by the changing situations” (EMCC 32).

There are also Organizations specifically for the assistance of migrants and refugees, among which are the International Catholic Migration Commission and the various national Caritas, in general (cf. no. 33).

However, we must not forget the precious work being done by all the Organisms of charity and solidarity also in the service of migrants and refugees. Finally, in the context of the generosity of religious Congregations, special mention deserves to be given to those which have been specifically founded for this purpose. It is with an expression of gratitude to all of them that I wish to close this first part of my contribution to this Workshop, without forgetting the humble and simple welcome given by the lay people.







Migrazioni, segno dei tempi e sollecitudine della Chiesa



L’Istruzione Erga migrantes caritas Christi considera il fenomeno migratorio un “segno dei tempi”, che appella alla sollecitudine della Chiesa.

L’espressione “segno dei tempi” risale alla conversazione tra Gesù e un gruppo di farisei e sadducei, i quali per provare Gesù gli chiedono un segno dal cielo. Gesù risponde “Quando si fa sera, voi dite: Bel tempo, perché il cielo rosseggia; e al mattino: Oggi burrasca, perché il cielo è rosso cupo. Sapete dunque interpretare l'aspetto del cielo e non sapete distinguere i segni dei tempi?” (Mt 16:2-3). In questa prospettiva, i “segni dei tempi” si riferiscono ad avvenimenti che sono in qualche modo indicazione di certe realtà.

La Chiesa ha il dovere “di scrutare i segni dei tempi e di interpretarli alla luce del Vangelo” (GS 4), sotto la guida del Magistero, in modo da “rispondere ai perenni interrogativi degli uomini sul senso della vita presente e futura e sulle loro relazioni reciproche” (ibid.), con un linguaggio intelligibile a tutte le generazioni e culture. Non si tratta di un’interpretazione sociologica delle realtà umane, ma di una lettura alla luce della fede. Essa cerca di decifrare i segni autentici della presenza di Dio negli avvenimenti e nei bisogni e desideri delle persone del nostro tempo.

Tra gli avvenimenti contemporanei da scrutinare identificati da Gaudium et Spes (n. 6) figurano le migrazioni. Circa quaranta anni più tardi l’Istruzione Erga migrantes caritas Christi vede nel fenomeno “un segno dei tempi assai importante, una sfida da scoprire e da valorizzare nella costruzione di una umanità rinnovata e nell'annuncio del Vangelo della pace” (EMCC 14). Oggi le migrazioni portano ad un “passaggio da società monoculturali a società multiculturali” (ibid.), che può rivelarsi “segno di viva presenza di Dio nella storia e nella comunità degli uomini, poiché offre un'opportunità provvidenziale per realizzare il piano di Dio di una comunione universale” (ibid.).

Le migrazioni dunque possono essere poste accanto “a quegli eventi biblici che scandiscono le tappe del faticoso cammino dell'umanità verso la nascita di un popolo oltre le discriminazioni e le frontiere” (n. 13). Nell’Antica Alleanza le migrazioni accompagnavano la risposta dei Patriarchi alla chiamata di Dio a diventare una grande nazione. In quella Nuova, la Chiesa “nasce dalla Pentecoste”, una reale e simbolico incontro di popoli, tra i quali “non c'è più Greco o Giudeo, circoncisione o incirconcisione, barbaro o Scita, schiavo o libero" (Col 3,11), perché Cristo ha abbattuto “il muro di separazione" (Ef 2,14). Le sofferenze e i dolori che accompagnano le migrazioni non sono altro che espressioni del “travaglio del parto di una nuova umanità” (EMCC 12).

La Chiesa conosce i problemi che i migranti devono affrontare: discriminazione, razzismo, xenofobia, trattamento come strumenti di lavoro e non persone, non rispetto dei diritti lavorativi, mancanza di sicurezza sociale, crescente tendenza per donne e minori ad emigrare, etc. Essa esprime la sua sollecitudine anche facendo appello ai governi ed altri responsabili a proteggere i migranti e salvarli dai mali che li affliggono, collaborando con tutte le nazioni per vincere questi mali alla radice. Le Chiese locali debbono poi essere solidali con i migranti e proteggerne i diritti e le famiglie con cooperazione tra Paesi di origine e di destino. Nello stesso modo si incoraggia la collaborazione, sul piano pastorale, tra le Chiese di origine e di destino con invito al dialogo.

Segno tangibile della sollecitudine della Chiesa per i migranti è la creazione di strutture specifiche per la loro cura pastorale, a cominciare dal Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti, in diretto contatto con le Commissioni Episcopali per le questioni relative alla mobilità umana delle Conferenze Episcopali e dei Consigli Continentali nonché con le corrispondenti strutture delle Chiese Orientali Cattoliche. Ci sono poi le Organizzazioni specifiche per l’assistenza ai migranti e gli altri Organismi di carità e solidarietà, oltre alle congregazioni religiose, in modo particolare quelle fondate proprio con questo scopo.  



1Message for World Migration Day in 1983. See also the Holy Father’s Message in 2003, on the theme “For a commitment to overcome all racism, xenophobia and exaggerated nationalism.”

2See CA 8, which refers to the exploitation of women and children, some of whom are migrants. See also the Proceedings of three international meetings organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: the First International Meeting for the Liberation of the Women of the Street (Rome, Italy, June 20-21, 2005) ( roman_curia/pontifical_

councils/migrants/documents_1/rc_pc_migrants_doc_20210605_ Iinc-past-don-strada-findoc_en.html) and the VI World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism (Bangkok, Thailand, July 5 - 8, 2004) (http: //

councils/migrants/documents/rc_pc migrants_doc_20040729_Bangkok_findoc_en.html); the Fifth World Con-gress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees (Rome, 17-22 Nov. 2003) (

councils/migrants/pom2003_93/rc_pc_migrants_ pom93_ind.html);

3See GS 66 and PP 69.

4See CA 52 and EMCC 8. Several authors have written much on this topic. My latest contribution is forthcoming in the special issue No. 25-26 (2005) of Nuntium (edited by the Pontifical Lateran University), dedicated to Pope John Paul II.  

5“Specific Church Presence in the Structure and Organs for the Pastoral Care of Migrations” (Message for World Migration Day in 1982). See also the Final Document of the V World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, on November 17-22, 2003: See People on the Move XXXV (2003), No. 93.







Agents of a Pastoral Care of Communion


The third part of the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi opens by expressing the need to “ensure that the pastoral care of migrants … be one of communion” (EMCC 70), explaining that it should be “born from an ecclesiology of communion and serving a spirituality of communion” (ibid.). This is the framework of the identity and action of the agents in this specific pastoral care.


Ecclesiology and spirituality of communion


Pope John Paul II made a direct reference to the “ecclesiology of communion” in his Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, when he called for an examination of conscience regarding the reception given to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (which, by the way, is the subject of my last book entitled The II Vatican Ecumenical Council, Counterpoint for its History, edited by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005, 407 pp.). The Pope formulated these questions:

In the universal Church and in the particular Churches, is the ecclesiology of communion described in Lumen Gentium being strengthened? Does it leave room for charisms, ministries, and different forms of participation by the People of God, without adopting notions borrowed from democracy and sociology which do not reflect the Catholic vision of the Church and the authentic spirit of Vatican II? (TMA 36)

Lumen Gentium defines the Church also as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (LG 4). A more detailed explanation is given in LG 7:

In the human nature united to Himself the Son of God, by overcoming death through His own death and resurrection, redeemed man and re-molded him into a new creation. By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body. In that Body the life of Christ is poured into the believers who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ who suffered and was glorified. Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.’ (1 Cor 12:13) … Partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. … As all the members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ. Also, in the building up of Christ's Body various members and functions have their part to play. There is only one Spirit who, according to His own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives His different gifts for the welfare of the Church.

This ecclesiology of communion (underlined by the Synod of Bishops in 1985 as the characteristic of the ecclesiology of Vatican II) is closely bound to the spirituality of communion, which Pope John Paul II describes as follows:

A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as ‘those who are a part of me’. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship (NMI 43).

Therefore, the pastoral care of migrants must also be one of communion. Just as the Church, which is one, is made up of many members with various functions, the pastoral care of migrants is unified, but its agents are various and each has a different role. Each one is related to the others organically, just as the members of a body are united. 

Moreover, this diversity in functions and vocations is evoked in the aforementioned Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (no. 46):

The unity of the Church is not uniformity, but an organic [hierarchical] blending of legitimate diversities. It is the reality of many members joined in a single body, the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). Therefore the Church of the Third Millennium will need to encourage all the baptized and confirmed to be aware of their active responsibility in the Church's life. Together with the ordained ministry, other ministries, whether formally instituted or simply recognized, can flourish for the good of the whole community, sustaining it in all its many needs: from catechesis to liturgy, from the education of the young to the widest array of charitable works. 

Collaboration between the sending and the receiving Churches


The first expression of communion, which is the framework of all pastoral action, is an intense collaboration between the Churches of departure and arrival “This begins first in the reciprocal exchange of information on matters of common pastoral interest. It is unthinkable that these Churches should fail to dialogue with one another and systematically discuss, evenin periodic meetings, problems concerning thousands of migrants” (EMCC 70; see also no. 23 and 90). 


Episcopal Commissions for Migration


Of course, to be able to cooperate effectively, pastoral activities in the particular Churches directed to migrants must be stimulated and coordinated. For this reason, the Bishops’ Conferences of each country are asked to create a specific Commission, ordinarily for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, or expanded to the Pastoral Care of Human Mobility as a whole. This Commission is directed by a Bishop President, usually assisted by an Executive Secretary, who is often, but not necessarily, appointed as National Director. It is also the task of the National Director “to animate the corresponding diocesan Commissions” (EMCC 70). There are corresponding Episcopal structures in the Eastern Catholic Churches (cf. no. 32).

When the situation of the local Church is such that it is not possible or opportune to set up a Commission with the aforementioned functions, the equivalent task in the service of migrants should be entrusted at least to a Bishop Promoter. “In this way spiritual assistance for persons far from their home country will appear as a clear ecclesial commitment, a pastoral task that cannot simply be left to the generosity of individuals, presbyters, religious men or women, or lay faithful, but sustained, even materially, by the local Churches” (no. 70).

I believe it is worth specifying at this point that the Episcopal Commissions for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, or the Bishop Promoters, are responsible, pastorally speaking, of foreigners who have immigrated into their country (and local Church). Also – even if in a different way – they are to take pastoral care of their fellow countrymen who have left their motherland and emigrated. The difference? It is quite clear, I think. Immigrants become members of the local Church, while emigrants have to be prepared and assisted in integrating, in the correct sense of the term, into the Church in their host country which, of course, has to carry out some duties in their regard (see EMCC 70). In this connection, I would like to point out that it is the task of the host Church to ensure that Catholics belonging to the Eastern Churches “‘preserve the rite of their own Church (Can. 193, §1) )’ if possible ‘by the ministry of presbyters and parish priests of the same Church sui iuris (Can. 193, §2)’” (no. 26). It is also important to give special pastoral assistance to the families of emigrants, who are left behind in the home country. 

Summing up, Episcopal Councils and Conferences, and their corresponding structures in the Eastern Catholic Churches, specific Commissions for migration, Bishop Promoters, individual Bishops and Hierarchs are all urged “to implement a specific pastoral care for persons involved in the ever growing phenomenon of human mobility and to adopt suitable provisions as called for by the changing situations” (no. 32).


Chaplains/missionaries for migrants


The importance of accompanying migrants to their destination countries was already recognized during the migration wave from Europe to the New World or to other European countries. Already at the end of the 19th century, members of the secular clergy were sent to migrate with them. Religious congregations were also founded specifically for this purpose.

Today, we have missionaries or chaplains for migrants. Who are they? A definition is offered in the juridical-pastoral regulations of the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, which reads:

“Presbyters, who have been given the mandate by the competent ecclesiastical authority to provide spiritual assistance in a stable way to migrants of the same language or nation, or belonging to the same Church sui iuris, are called chaplains/ missionaries for migrants” (Art. 4, §1).

Obviously, this is not a sociological, nationalistic or political function, but a commitment to the Church’s universal “mission of announcing and inaugurating [the kingdom of God] among all peoples” (cf RMi 18). Like all other priests, the chaplain/missionary is entrusted not only with “the pastoral care of the Christian com-munity, but also … [with] the evangelization of those of their fellow citizens who do not belong to Christ’s flock” (RMi 67). In fact, the Church excludes no one since “each one is included in the mystery of the redemption and with each one Christ has united himself forever through this mystery” (RH 13).

A chaplain/missionary for migrants, of course, may belong either to the secular or religious clergy. 

To encourage future priests and permanent deacons to undertake this ministry and prepare them for it, our Pontifical Council, together with the Congregation for Catholic Education, wrote to the diocesan bishops and rectors of seminaries, as well as to the Presidents of the various Bishops’ Conferences, to specifically include the pastoral care of migrants in their formation. Another joint letter, this time with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was sent to all Diocesan Ordinaries to underline the importance of this specific pastoral care in their dioceses and promote greater awareness of the missionary dimension of this apostolate.


The ministry of chaplains/missionaries for migrants


Following what I have affirmed until now, we can present some guidelines in carrying out the mission of chaplains of migrants:

First, the local population and migrant communities form one Church. In fact, we usually say – and it is true – that in the Church there are no foreigners. Thus, while there is a need for “pastoral care of a particular ethnic or ritual group, aimed at promoting a genuinely Catholic spirit” (EMCC 38), at the same time it is necessary “to safeguard universality and unity” (ibid.). This should not “clash … with the specific pastoral care that … entrusts migrants to presbyters of the same language, of their own Church sui iuris, or to presbyters who are close to them from a linguistic and cultural point of view” (ibid.).

  • While it is necessary to transmit the Christian message by cultural means that correspond to people’s formation and legitimate needs (cf. no. 77), the chaplain should not “remain prisoner to one exclusive, national way of living and expressing the faith” (ibid.).

  • This means that “the chaplain/missionary must be a bridge, linking the community of migrants to the host community” (EMCC 77), providing a spiritual care that leads to “openness to a new world and a sincere effort to find one’s place in it, the final goal being the full participation of the migrants in the life of the diocese” (ibid.).

  • Migrants, therefore, must feel that their chaplain/missionary is “with them to build the Church, in communion first of all with the diocesan bishop/eparch and with his brothers in the priesthood, in particular with the parish priests who have the same pastoral work to perform” (ibid.).

  • Chaplains of migrants who are “exercising pastoral care in a diocese/eparchy where they are not incardinated are nevertheless integrated into it so that they form part of the diocesan/eparchial presbytery to all effects. It cannot therefore be too strongly stressed that chaplains/missionaries remain united in fraternal harmony not only with the local ordinary/eparch,but also with the diocesan/eparchial clergy, especially with the parish priests” (no.).

  • It is therefore necessary that chaplains of migrants participate in priests’ gatherings and diocesan/eparchial assemblies, as well as attend study meetings on social, moral, liturgical and pastoral issues. These are a condition sine qua non for an authentic pastoral care held in mutual co-operation, solidarity and co-responsibility (ibid.).

  • To be effective, the chaplain of migrants must “know and appreciate the culture of the place where he is called to perform his ministry, speak its language, be able to dialogue with the society he lives in and teach esteem and respect for the host country, even to the point of loving and defending it” (no. 77).

  • While “safeguarding the migrants’ ethnic, cultural, linguistic and ritual identity, since effective pastoral activity is unthinkable if it does not respect and value their cultural heritage”, the migrants’ chaplain/missionary must also lead them to “dialogue with the local Church and culture so as to respond to new demands” (no. 78).

  • He should be a guide towards “authentic integration, avoiding a cultural ghetto and at the same time opposing the pure and simple assimilation of migrants into the local culture” (no. 78).

  • The “use of ethnic or linguistic considerations as the basis in exercisinghis ministry” should not make the chaplain of migrants forget that “the pastoral care of migrants must also result in building up a Church that aims at being ecumenical and missionary” (no. 77). He is called to have a missionary and evangelizing spirit in an atmosphere of a clear witness of life (no. 78). Therefore, he should not be contented with ministering to the Catholic migrant community entrusted to his care, but should reach out also to those migrants who belong to other Churches or profess other religious or non-religious convictions.

  • The chaplain of migrants, in any case, shares in the Church’s missionary ministry which looks “outward … [and passes] on its own treasures to others, [thus] being enriched with new gifts and values” (no. 37).

  • He also needs to be aware that “a necessary prelude to … successful proclamation” is “to recognise and appreciate [the] positive aspects [of the cultural identity of one’s dialogue partners], which prepare them to accept the gospel” (no. 36). By listening to and knowing those to whom the gospel is proclaimed, he can come to “a more adequate discernment of the values and ‘counter-values’ of their cultures in the light of the Paschal Mystery of death and life” (ibid.). Tolerance therefore is not enough.

  • Obviously the chaplain/missionary is called to respond to the migrants’ immediate needs on their arrival, but “once the emergency phase has passed and migrants are settled in their host country, he will try to widen his own horizon and become a ‘deacon of communion’. Being a foreigner he will be a living reminder for the local Church, in all its components, of its characteristic catholicity, and the pastoral structures he serves will be a sign, poor though it may be, of a particular Church committed in practice to a path of universal communion, with respect for legitimate diversities” (no. 98).

The national coordinator for chaplains/missionaries of migrants


It is necessary to have a national coordinator among chaplains of migrants from the same country when they are numerous. The national coordinator is “an expression of the Church ad quam in favor of the chaplains/missionaries themselves though he is not considered … their representative. [Nonetheless] he is at the service of the chaplains/missionaries who receive … the rescript given by the Episcopal Conference a qua … in countries with a large number of immigrants coming from the same nation” (EMCC 73).

Obviously, there has to be a very close cooperation between the host Church’s National Director for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and the National Coordinators of the chaplains, as well as with the individual chaplains themselves, of the various national groups present in the country.


Non-ordained pastoral agents


From what we have previously said, it is clear that the pastoral care for migrants is a duty of the whole People of God. This means that the tasks entrusted to the chaplain/missionary of migrants, which are not sacramentally linked with ordained ministry, is shared by all other pastoral agents operating in the field of migration. In any case, they must “carry out their ministry in close union with the diocesan bishop, or with the hierarch, and his clergy. Moreover the difficulty and importance of achieving certain aims both on the individual and the community level will act as a stimulus for migrants’ chaplains and missionaries to seek the broadest possible and correct collaboration of both men and women religious and of the lay faithful” (no. 38). The Instruction also foresees a new non-ordained ministry that is one “of welcome with the task of approaching migrants and refugees and introducing them gradually into the civil and the ecclesial community or helping them in view of a possible return to their home country” (no. 88).


Religious men and women working among migrants


In addition to religious priests who function as chaplains/ missionaries of migrants, religious men and women “have always played a primary role in pastoral work for migrants, and the Church has shown and continues to show great confidence in what they do” (no. 80). In the course of history, the Holy Spirit has “brought into being institutes whose specific goal is the apostolate to migrants” (no. 80), like the Scalabrinian priests, sisters and secular institute and Cabrinian sisters (cf., note 13).

However, even the other religious institutes which are not specifically founded for the pastoral care of migrants “are cordially invited to take part in this responsibility. In fact it will always be opportune and praiseworthy for them to devote themselves to the spiritual care of this category of the faithful, choosing especially those activities that best correspond to their nature and aims” (no. 81).

Concretely, the Instruction (no. 84) suggests that superiors general “collaborate generously with pastoral workers for migrants and refugees by assigning some of their own members to work in this sector, backed up by the solidarity and collaboration of the entire religious community. Perhaps they might also make available for this work, either permanently or for a certain period, some part of their buildings that would otherwise remain unused.”

It further suggests “that, in their circular letters to their members and in their meetings, superiors should from time to time focus on the urgency of the problem of migrants and refugees, drawing attention to Church documents and the words of the Holy Father. They might also care to bring up this matter on the occasion of general or provincial chapters and during courses of updating and permanent formation” (no. 84) as well as invite future priests in their institutes to “at least consider the possibility of preparing themselves to exercise their ministry, or part of it, among migrants” (ibid.).

Jointly with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, our Pontifical Council wrote to the superiors general of the aforementioned institutes, encouraging them to increase their commitment in this apostolate given that “consecrated persons have a very rich spiritual patrimony to invest in this pastoral care-missionary endeavor” (Joint Letter, no. 2). We also invited them “to place at the basis of their formation and apostolate an authentically missionary spirit, which renders them wholly available to be witnesses both outside of their homelands and among the migrants of their own country (no. 3), so as “to understand the values inherent in migration and to channel them for the building up of the Reign of God” (no. 3).


The commitment of the laity, lay associations and ecclesial movements


Also the lay faithful and their associations, together with the ecclesial movements, have their pastoral contribution to give in the care for migrants. “We hope that this commitment with regard to immigrants will not just be practised by individual Christians alone or by traditional aid organisations but may also be included in the overall programmes of ecclesial movements and lay associations of the faithful” (EMCC 60). Of course due consideration must be given to “the diversity of their charisms and ministries” (no. 86) since “in a Church that strives to be entirely missionary-ministerial … respect for the gifts of all must be given prominence” (ibid.).

Typical tasks of diakonia that the lay faithful are called to perform could be “visiting the sick, helping the elderly, leading youth groups, animating family associations, teaching catechism and holding courses of professional qualification, working in schools and in administration and, furthermore, helping in the liturgy and in ‘consultation centres’, in prayer meetings and in meditation on the Word of God” (ibid.). Other functions more specifically directed to the world of migration “are in trade unions and in the world of labour, advising about and writing out laws aimed at facilitating reunification of migrants with their families and assuring them equal rights and opportunities. This means giving them access to essential goods, work and wages, home and school and enabling them to participate in the life of civil society (elections, associations, recreational activities, etc.)” (no. 87).

As our Pontifical Council wrote to the leaders and members of lay associations and ecclesial movements, in agreement with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, it is urgent that there be specific interest on the part of the Christian laity in the field of migration. Since “this is especially true for those lay persons living an apostolic spirituality and practice that inspire ecclesial movements and associations”, then – we wrote – “the vast field of human mobility can … justly claim a place in your concerns and activity, naturally in respect for your own charisma and specific priorities”. 

An important portion of the lay faithful are the migrants themselves, who “must be the first protagonists of [their] pastoral care” (no. 91). A “specific pastoral care for, among and with migrants” can “become a significant expression of the Church, called to be a fraternal and peaceful meeting place, a home for all, a building sustained by the four pillars … [of] truth and justice, love and freedom, the fruit of that paschal event that in Christ has reconciled everything and everybody” (no. 100). “Migrants, too, can be the hidden providential builders of such a universal fraternity together with many other brothers and sisters. They offer the Church the opportunity to realize more concretely its identity as communion and its missionary vocation” (no. 103).




The role that pastoral agents play in an ecclesiology and a spirituality of communion is illustrated in the following citation from Erga migrantes caritas Christi (ibid.), with which I will close this part of my presentation of the Instruction:

Migrations offer individual local Churches the opportunity to verify their catholicity, which consists not only in welcoming different ethnic groups, but above all in creating communion with them and among them. Ethnic and cultural pluralism in the Church is not just something to be tolerated because it is transitory, it is a structural dimension. The unity of the Church is not given by a common origin and language but by the Spirit of Pentecost which, bringing to-gether men and women of different languages and nations in one people, confers on them all faith in the same Lord and the calling to the same hope.








Operatori di una pastorale di comunione



La terza parte dell’Istruzione Erga migrantes caritas Christi è dedicata agli operatori della pastorale per i migranti, la quale deve essere una pastorale di comunione, “che nasce cioè dall’ecclesiologia di comunione e tende alla spiritualità di comunione” (EMCC 70).

Prima espressione di comunione è un’intensa collaborazione tra le Chiese di origine e di arrivo. Perché tale cooperazione sia efficace le Conferenze Episcopali sono chiamate a creare una specifica Commissione per la pastorale dei migranti, o della mobilità umana in generale, per stimolare e coordinare tale attività pastorale nelle Chiese particolari. Se non è possibile o opportuno istituire tale Commissione, le suddette attività pastorali vanno affidate ad un Vescovo Promotore.

Le Commissioni Episcopali, o i Vescovi Promotori, e le corri-spondenti strutture delle Chiese Orientali Cattoliche, sono responsabili delle persone straniere immigrate nel loro territorio nazionale, e dunque nella Chiesa locale. Devono comunque – anche se in modo diverso – preoccuparsi pure dei loro connazionali che hanno lasciato la loro patria e sono emigrati altrove.

I cappellani/missionari per i migranti sono presbiteri con il mandato di assicurare l’assistenza spirituale in modo stabile ai migranti della medesima lingua o nazione, o appartenenti alla stessa Chiesa sui iuris. La Chiesa incoraggia e prepara i futuri sacerdoti ad intraprendere tale ministero.

Tra essi si nomina il coordinatore nazionale, il quale è un’espres-sione della Chiesa ad quam a favore dei cappellani/missionari, ma non è considerato loro rappresentante. E’ comunque al servizio dei cappellani/missionari inviati ufficialmente della Conferenza Episcopali a qua.

Ovviamente deve esserci una stretta collaborazione tra il direttore nazionale e i coordinatori nazionali dei cappellani, e con i cappellani stessi.

Dato che la pastorale dei migranti è dovere di tutto il Popolo di Dio, i compiti del cappellano/missionario che non sono strettamente legati al ministero ordinato sono condivisibili con gli altri operatori pastorali.

Va dunque riconosciuto il ruolo dei religiosi e delle religiose in questo campo, in modo particolare a coloro che appartengono agli Istituti fondati proprio per questo scopo.

E’ altresì importante il contributo dei laici, delle loro associazioni e dei movimenti ecclesiali. Tra questi figurano i migranti stessi, che “debbono essere i primi protagonisti della [loro] pastorale” (n. 91). “Pure i migranti possono essere i costruttori, nascosti e provvidenziali, di una tale fraternità universale, insieme a molti altri fratelli e sorelle. Essi offrono alla Chiesa l'opportunità di realizzare più concretamente la sua identità comunionale e la sua vocazione missionaria” (n. 103).






The Structures of a Missionary Pastoral Care 



From what we have said so far, it is clear that the fundamental reason why we are concerned about the plight of migrants in our world today is because we would like that also every person and community involved in the phenomenon of migration would be reached by the love of Christ. In this way we wish to contribute to the transformation of the world in which we live, migrants and local population alike, into a united world of brothers and sisters at least in humanity, if not in Christianity.

This is why we are working for an authentic culture of welcome for migrants that includes assistance, solidarity, acceptance and integration (if possible and freely) into one Church, where there are no foreigners.This is not accomplished “simply by performing acts of fraternal assistance or even by supporting legislation aimed at giving them their due place in society while respecting their identity” (EMCC 39). It must be “capable of accepting the truly human values of the immigrants over and above any difficulties caused by living together with persons who are different” (ibid. 39).


Why welcome migrants


Let us now go to the roots of our missionary pastoral care! It is important to identify the reason why we, Christians, are called to welcome migrants and to uphold a culture of welcome, as Pope John Paul II affirmed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 360) affirms that “the human race forms a unity” because of its common origin. Erga migrantes caritas Christi shares this vision (see nos. 12-13). But St. Paul had already declared that God is the father of all people: “As indeed some of your own writers have said: We are all his children. Since we are the children of God…” (Acts 17:28-29). If everyone, therefore, is a child of God, humankind can be taken as one family, and all men and women as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and of one another.

In this perspective, we can say that migrants and non-migrants together form one family, and the members of a family, all of its members, have the same rights. From this also flows the fact that human solidarity and charity, which also means justice, must not exclude anyone of the rich variety of persons, cultures and peoples on earth (cf. CCC 361).

The first thing to bear in mind, therefore, in our dealings with migrants, even from a missionary point of view, is that they are all our brothers and sisters, and as such we owe them our love and respect. They are not simply people in need for whom we are graciously doing an act of kindness. No, they are members of our family with whom we are duty-bound also to share what we have, including, if possible, the most precious treasure we have: our Lord Jesus Christ and his message of liberation and joy.


Welcoming the stranger in the Holy Scriptures


In any case, welcoming the stranger is an ageold tradition, and not just a Christian one. The Old Testament is full of passages that evoke it. Let us take the episode at Mamre (cf. Gn 18), where Abraham offered hospitality to three mysterious personages who stopped by his tent.

Abraham’s words of welcome demonstrates the way he considered a stranger: “My Lord …, if I find favour with you, please do not pass your servant by. Let me have a little water brought, and you can wash your feet and have a rest under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you can refresh yourselves before going further, now that you have come in your servant’s direction.” It is evident that Abraham considered it a privilege to welcome the stranger. 

Abraham’s nephew, Lot, insisted on giving hospitality to the two personages who arrived in Sodom, and when the townspeople asked him to send them out to them, he said, “Please… do nothing to these men since they are now under the protection of my roof” (Gn 19:8). Welcoming the stranger also means protection.

We can refer to more citations from the Old Testament recommending that foreigners be treated well. In the Book of Exodus, for example, we read: “You will not molest or oppress aliens, for you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt” (Ex 22:20). I would like to mention two other texts where kindness and helpfulness to the stranger are stressed, that is: “If you have resident aliens in your country, you will not molest them. You will treat resident aliens as though they were native-born and love them as yourself – for you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt” (Lv 19:33-34) and “[Yahweh] loves the stranger and gives him food and clothing. Love the stranger then, for you were once strangers in Egypt” (Dt 10:18-19).

Therefore Yahweh, who loves everyone, asks the Israelites to understand the strangers’ precarious situation, having themselves experienced this condition when they were in Egypt. He in fact commands to love them “as yourself”.

Later on, in the New Testament, when the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment of the law was, He answered that the first and greatest commandment was a total love for God. Then he continued: “The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). Again, when Jesus declared that he did not come to abolish to law but to complete it (cf. Mt 5:4), He urged his listeners to “always treat others as you would like them to treat you” (Mt 7:2).

But the New Testament goes further. Christ raised the criterion of loving through his supreme example: “You must love one another just as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34) and “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). We know how Christ loved us: through his suffering and death on the cross. That is the measure that Christ has set down for his followers, and it includes: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down his rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike” (Mt 5: 44-45). As a matter of fact, “when we were still helpless, at the appointed time, Christ died for the godless. You could hardly find anyone ready to die even for someone upright … So it is a proof of God’s own love for us, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners… We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son” (Rm 5: 6-8, 10). 

To conclude these considerations based on the Holy Scriptures, which are the basis of our missionary pastoral care, let us recall that in his Gospel Matthew presents a fresco of the last judgment. At a certain point, those who are invited to enter the kingdom of God ask: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?” (Mt 25:37-38). And the answer is: “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

Clearly, Christ will consider done to himself the kind of treatment that is reserved to any human person, and in particular, the least. In dealing with migrants, therefore, it is as if we are dealing with Christ himself (cf. EMCC 15), because they are generally the least. Christ will consider our actions, thoughts and attitude towards migrants directed to himself. In this respect, let us bear in mind that migrants include international as well as internal migrants, and there are also internally displaced persons (IDPs), together with refugees, and trafficked people without forgetting foreign students.


How to welcome the migrant


In welcoming migrants it is “useful and correct to distinguish between assistance in a general sense (a first, short-term welcome), true welcome in the full sense (longer-term projects) and integration (an aim to be pursued constantly over a long period and in the true sense of the word)” (EMCC 42). By “assistance” or “first welcome” we mean the response that is given to the migrant’s immediate needs like, for example, migrants’ hospitality centres, especially in transit countries, or in emergencies that come with migration, like canteens, dormitories, clinics, economic aid, reception centres (cf. no. 43). “Welcome in its full sense” aims at the progressive integration and self-sufficiency of the immigrant, illustrated particularly by “the commitment for family unification, education of children, housing, work, associations, promotion of civil rights and migrants’ various ways of participation in their host society” (ibid.), whereas authentic “integration” avoids the formation of cultural ghettos and at the same time opposes the pure and simple assimilation of migrants into the local culture (cf. no. 78).

The task of welcoming migrants pastorally is entrusted first of all to their pastoral agents, whose identity and functions we have already discussed, and it is undeniable that, in carrying out their solicitude, the structures within which it takes place are worthy of profound considerations.

During this lecture, therefore, let us try to go through the “structures” of a missionary pastoral care envisioned for migrants.


The host Church: the fundamental “structure” 


The pastoral care specifically for migrants is the responsibility of the diocesan/eparchial bishop of the Church in which the migrant is received and therefore it should be deeply integrated into that of the receiving Church. The Bishop, however, is called to fully respect “the migrants’ diversity and spiritual and cultural patrimony” (no. 89) and overcome “the limits of uniformity” (ibid.) in their respect. This implies “distinguishing the territorial character of the spiritual care of the faithful from that of care based on belonging to ethnic, linguistic, cultural and ritual groups” (ibid.).

In fact, the persons and groups that compose the host Church are “integrated”, thereby building “a Church that is concretely Catholic” (EMCC 89), where there is “unity in plurality …, a unity that is not uniformity but harmony, in which every legitimate diversity plays its part in the common and unifying effort” (ibid.).

To conclude, we must recognize the fact that the fundamental “structure” for the missionary pastoral care of migrants is the host Church.


Other pastoral structures1 


  • While we have the territorial parish for ordinary pastoral care, here let us consider the personal parish2 established because of the presence of a significant number of Christian faithful of a specific rite, language, or nationality in a given territory, which may go beyond the territory of a single parish. The personal ethnic-linguistic parish or the personal parish based on a particular rite is provided for in view of places “where there is an immigrant community that will continually have newcomers even in the future, and where that community is numerically strong. It maintains the typical characteristic service of a parish (proclamation of the Word, catechesis, liturgy, diakonia) and will be concerned above all with recent immigrants, seasonal workers or those coming by turns, and with others who for various reasons have difficulty in finding their place in the existent territorial structures” (no. 91).

  • There could instead be a local parish with an ethnic-linguistic mission or one with a mission based on a particular rite. This is “a territorial parish which, with the help of one or more pastoral workers, would take care of one or more groups of immigrant faithful. The chaplain here would be part of the parish team” (ibid.).

  • A chaplain/missionary for migrants may be granted the authority to take “spiritual care of immigrant Catholics of their own language or nationality with no canonical quasi-domicile or without any canonical domicile” (Exsul familia, Title II, no. 34), meaning that they have not yet settled down. The structure entrusted to his care is a missio cum cura animarum (cf. EMCC 91). 

  • A looser structure would be an ethnic-linguistic pastoral service on a zonal level, which is “pastoral care for immigrants who are relatively well integrated in the local society” (ibid.). 

It is indeed important to preserve some given elements of pastoral care based on language or linked to nationality or a particular rite. This would guarantee essential services, including those related to a particular type of culture and piety, and at the same time promote openness and interaction between the territorial community and the various ethnic groups (cf. ibid.).

As a matter of fact, pastoral care could be “integrated”, meaning a pastoral care of “communion that knows how to appreciate belonging to different cultures and peoples” (cf. ibid.). Pastoral care of this type could take various forms, like:

  • the intercultural and interethnic or inter-ritual parish,which provides“pastoral assistance for both the local population and foreigners resident in the same territory” (EMCC 93). In this case, the territorial parish becomes a privileged and stable place of interethnic and intercultural experience, and at the same time, each individual group retains its autonomy (cf. ibid.), or 

  • the local parish with a service for migrants of one or more ethnic groups and/or of one or more rites. Here the territorial parish makes its church or parish centre available also for the use of one or more communities of foreigners, as their point of reference, meeting place and centre of community life (cf. ibid.). 

There could also be pastoral missionary structures that address specific sectors in the world of migration (cf. no. 94), such as:   

  • Centres for pastoral work among migrant youth and for vocation orientation.The task of these centres isto promote initiatives in this regard;

  • Centres for the formation of the laity and of pastoral agents, in a multicultural perspective;

  • Centres for study and pastoral reflection. These centres are meant to observe the evolution of the migration phenomenon so as to present suitable proposals in the pastoral field to those in charge.

Missionary pastoral units


A recent formula that could also be envisaged for apostolate among immigrants is the “pastoral unit”. It is “generally composed of several parishes that the bishop has requested to work together to constitute an efficacious ‘missionary community’ [and] to operate in a given territory in harmony with the diocesan pastoral plan. It amounts basically to a form of inter-parish collaboration and coordination (between two or more adjacent parishes)” (EMCC 95).

These units were formed some time ago in some dioceses and are considered to be a possible pastoral platform in the future. They are read as a sign that “the parish-territory relationship is slowly changing” given that “services for the spiritual assistance of the faithful are increasing in number and going beyond parish boundaries” (ibid.). Moreover “new legitimate forms of ministry are emerging, and, last but not least, the migrants’ ‘diaspora’ is steadily growing in importance and spreading geographically” (ibid.). 


Informal missionary pastoral structures


It is important to bear in mind that even when stable structures for the pastoral care of migrants cannot be instituted canonically due to external factors or some given conditions, the host Church is not exempt from the duty “to help Catholic immigrants pastorally in whatever manner seems best in view of circumstances” (no. 92). In this case, the answer could be informal missionary pastoral arrangements, perhaps spontaneously offered by the local Christian community. These initiatives “deserve to be recognised and encouraged within ecclesial circumscriptions, independently of how many people benefit from them, if only to avoid the danger of improvisation and [of] isolated and unsuited pastoral workers or even of sects” (ibid.).


Integrated pastoral care


These various forms of structures for the missionary pastoral care of migrants will be effective if they operate “above all in the context of overall, integrated and organic pastoral work” (no. 95). This means that there must be cooperation and harmony among local community and the various migrant groups. “The requirements of communion and co-responsibility have to be manifest concretely, not only in relations between persons and different groups but also in the relations between local parish communities and ethnic-linguistic or ritual ones” (EMCC 95).


Unity in diversity


Multiculturality, interculturality, inter-ethnic relations, in fact, are not exclusively secular concepts. They have to permeate also our ecclesial communities. “The Church, sacrament of unity, overcomes ideological or racial barriers and divisions and proclaims to all people and all cultures the need to strive for the truth in the perspective of correctly facing differences by dialogue and mutual acceptance [This does not apply only to relations with other Churches, religions and convictions, but also to dealings with our very own brothers and sisters in our own Catholic Church]. Different cultural identities are thus to open up to a universal way of understanding, not abandoning their own positive elements but putting them at the service of the whole of humanity. While this logic engages every particular Church, it highlights and reveals that unity in diversity that is contemplated in the Trinity. … The cultural situation today, global and dynamic as it is, calls for the incarnation of the one faith in many cultures and thus represents an unprecedented challenge, a true kairòs for the whole People of God (cf. EEu 58)” (no. 34).





Le strutture di una pastorale missionaria


Un’autentica cultura di accoglienza per i migranti comprende l’assistenza, la solidarietà, l’accettazione e integrazione in un’unica Chiesa dove nessuno è forestiero. Non vuol dire semplicemente opere di assistenza fraterna e sostegno delle leggi a loro favore. Vuol dire capacità di accettare i valori realmente umani che essi portano al di là della difficoltà nel vivere con coloro che sono diversi. Occorrono dunque strutture per l’accoglienza dei migranti, che, nel senso pieno della parola, ha lo scopo di arrivare all’integrazione progressiva e auto-sufficienza del migrante.

La “struttura” fondamentale per la pastorale missionaria dei migranti è la Chiesa locale di arrivo, dato che responsabile di tale pastorale è l’Ordinario del luogo. E’ dunque lì che il migrante deve integrarsi. Tuttavia ciò deve svolgersi “nel pieno rispetto della loro diversità e del loro patrimonio spirituale e culturale, superando il limite della uniformità” (EMCC 89). Perciò è necessario distinguere “il carattere territoriale della cura d’anime da quello dell’ap-partenenza etnica, linguistica, culturale e di rito” (ibid.).

Ci sono specifiche strutture pastorali d’accoglienza dei migranti, come la parrocchia personale etnico‑linguistica o rituale, prevista per la presenza di un consistente numero di cristiani di un particolare rito, lingua o nazionalità in un dato territorio, che avrà, anche in futuro, un ricambio. Può esserci anche una parrocchia locale con missione etnico ‑linguistica o rituale, cioè una parrocchia territoriale che, attraverso uno o più Operatori pastorali, si prende cura di uno o vari gruppi di fedeli stranieri. La missio cum cura animarum, invece, è prevista per la cura spirituale dei migranti, di un particolare gruppo etnico/nazionale o di un certo rito, non ancora stabilizzati. Una struttura meno rigida è il Servizio pastorale etnico‑linguistico a livello zonale, concepito come azione pastorale in favore di immigrati relativamente integrati nella società locale.

La pastorale dei migranti può essere “integrata” nella pastorale territoriale, come nelle seguenti forme:

- la Parrocchia interculturale e interetnica o interrituale, che assicura l'assistenza pastorale sia degli autoctoni sia degli stranieri residenti sullo stesso territorio. Così la parrocchia territoriale diventa “un luogo privilegiato e stabile di esperienze interetniche o interculturali, pur conservando, i singoli gruppi, una certa autonomia” (EMCC 93).

- la Parrocchia locale con servizio ai migranti di una o più etnie, di uno o più riti. E' la Parrocchia territoriale “autoctona” che mette a disposizione la sua chiesa o centro parrocchiale affinché diventino punto di riferimento, di incontro e di vita comunitaria anche di una o più comunità straniere.

Ci potrebbero essere strutture pastorale-missionarie (cf. n. 94) che rispondono alle esigenze particolari di settori specifici delle migrazioni, come per esempio:

Centri di pastorale giovanile specifica e di proposta vocazionale, col compito di promuovere le relative iniziative;

Centri di formazione di laici e operatori pastorali, in una prospettiva multiculturale;

Centri di studio e di riflessione pastorale, col compito di seguire l'evoluzione del fenomeno migratorio e di presentare a chi di dovere adeguate proposte pastorali.

 Si potrebbe invece adottare una formula recente, l’“unità pastorale”, generalmente costituita “da più parrocchie, chiamate dal Vescovo a costruire insieme un'efficace "comunità missionaria", che opera in un dato territorio, in armonia con il piano pastorale diocesano. E', insomma, una forma di collaborazione, di coordi-namento interparrocchiale (fra due o più parrocchie limitrofe)” (n. 95).

Quando le condizioni esterne sono tali da impossibilitare l’istituzione di strutture stabili per la pastorale dei migranti, la Chiesa locale è comunque tenuta a provvedere alla pastorale in parola. Una soluzione potrebbe venire dalle iniziative pastorali informali, e magari spontanee, che meritano “di esser promosse e riconosciute nelle circoscrizioni ecclesiastiche, a prescindere dalla consistenza numerica di chi ne beneficia, anche per non dare spazio all'improvvisazione e a Operatori isolati e non idonei, o addirittura alle sette” (n. 92).

Va comunque ricordato che le varie strutture pastorali sopra menzionate saranno efficaci nella misura che vi sia cooperazione e armonia tra la comunità locale e i vari gruppi dei migranti.



1cf. EMCC Juridical Pastoral Regulations, art. 16 and nos. 91-95.

2CIC can. 518 states: “As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory. When it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established determined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason.”








Universal Mission




Today – I repeat – there is practically no country that has not been touched by international migration, either as a country of origin, arrival or transit, or a combination of these. Well then, in countries where migrants are found “the entire Church … must feel concerned and engaged regarding immigrants” (EMCC 41) and “the local population [with the help of social and pastoral agents] should be made aware of the complex problems of migration and the need to oppose baseless suspicions and offensive prejudices against foreigners” (ibid. 41, cf. also no. 100). In fact, there is “a widespread fear or feeling of insecurity in people” (no. 40). However, it cannot be denied that there is also a need to “guarantee due respect for legality … [and to] safeguard the integrity of the host community” (ibid. 40). The necessary equilibrium – our Instruction states, as you know – can be achieved only through “a genuinely Christian spirit [that] will give the right approach and courage to face these problems and suggest the practical means by which we are called to resolve them in the day-to-day life of our Christian communities” (ibid. 40).

And sometimes we can start with a simple greeting or with a smile. In fact, migrants thirst “for some gesture that will make him feel welcome, recognised and acknowledged as a person” (no. 96). To respond to this need, Christians must be educated “to welcome, solidarity and openness to foreigners”, thus making migration a more and more “meaningful” phenomenon in the Church, whereby “the faithful may discover the semina Verbi (seeds of the Word) found in different cultures and religions” (ibid. 96). Here we come to the core of big questions which are particularly important in Asia, a continent where Christians are immerged in very large numbers of non Christians. 


The Church of Pentecost


Here the contemplation of Pentecost can be of help to us. Its unity, in fact, “does not abolish the various languages and cultures but recognises them in their identities, at the same time opening them to other realities” (EMCC 37). It is a “universal” event! Hence, different cultural identities are to open up to the universal, “not abandoning their own positive elements but putting them at the service of the whole of humanity” (no. 34). This “highlights and reveals that unity in diversity that is contemplated in the Trinity” (ibid.), and is very important to bear in mind as we come “face to face with a cultural and religious pluralism never perhaps experienced so consciously before” (no. 35). This implies that it is necessary to respect, as far as possible, the cultural identity of the others (cf. no. 36). If they have not come to know the “Good News” yet, it is important “to recognise and appreciate their positive aspects, which prepare them to accept the gospel [and] is a necessary prelude to its successful proclamation” (ibid.). The Gospel is, in fact, the treasure that the Church wishes to pass on to others, as it is enriched by new gifts and values from them (cf. no. 37). As migration brings “together persons of different nationalities, ethnic origins and religions into contact, [it] contributes to making the true face of the Church visible (cf. GS 92)” (no. 38). This brings out its value “from the point of view of ecumenism and missionary work and dialogue” (ibid.). Also through migration, therefore, will God’s saving plan be realized (cf. ibid.). In fact, “in the Christian community born of Pentecost, migration is an integral part of the Church’s life [and] clearly expresses its universality, promotes communion within it, and influences its growth” (no. 97).


Universal mission in a mixture of cultures, religions and beliefs


The intermingling of cultures, religions and beliefs caused by migration, therefore, could be an enrichment, but it has also caused tension which has persisted, and considerably, in some cases. Antidote to this tension is dialogue, that leads to the recognition of values in common and an attitude of respect for differences (see EMCC 34-36; 56-59 and 69) which do not hamper human rights. This “goes beyond mere tolerance and reaches sympathy”1, and encour-ages “a mutual fecundation of cultures …, in a context of true under-standing and benevolence.”2 The cultural practices which migrants bring with them, however, should “not contravene either the universal ethical values inherent in the natural law or fundamental human rights.”3 

The Church has a special role in this area. Our experience is that the first step to “integration” into the local Church is to assure that migrants feel at home there4. This necessarily means being themselves in “language, liturgy, spirituality, particular traditions.” That is the path to the kind of “ecclesial integration, which enriches the Church of God and which is the fruit of the dynamic realism of the Incarnation of the Son of God.”5 When not forced ahead nor held back, migrants make their own contribution to the catholicity of the Church, i.e., that “complete openness to the other, a readiness to share and to live in the same ecclesial communion.”6 The teaching and experience of the Church here can be an example for civil societies that struggle with their inter-cultural challenges.


Mission of welcoming in the Catholic Church and beyond


There is a long tradition in the Catholic Church of welcoming Catholic migrants, to help them live their faith through all circumstances of life. For this reason, it provides for “a specific kind of pastoral care due to diversity of language, origin, culture, ethnicity and tradition, or belonging to a particular Church sui iuris with its own rite” (EMCC 49). This also means that those of the Eastern Catholic Churches should be given the opportunity to observe their own rite wherever they are, as far as possible, although they can also actively participate in the liturgical celebration of the Catholic Churches of other rites (cf. no. 52-55). “The sacred liturgy celebrated in the rite of their own Church sui iuris is important as a safeguard of the spiritual identity of Eastern Catholic migrants as is also the use of their languages in religious worship” (no. 46).

In this context, we have to answer the question that is often raised in relation to how to make “liturgical celebrations become a living expression of communities of believers” (EMCC 44). How is liturgy related to the character, tradition and genius of the different cultural groups (ibid.)? How should the Church respond to the particular social and cultural situation of such groups in the context of a pastoral care that takes up their specific liturgical formation and ways of making liturgy more vibrant, thus promoting a “wider participation of the faithful in the particular Church” (cf. ibid.)?

Another characteristic of many migrant communities is popular piety. For them, it “is a fundamental link with their Church of origin and with their ways of understanding and living the faith” (no. 46). It is necessary for the local Catholic community to be given the possibility “to know and appreciate certain forms of devotion of migrants and thus to understand them” (ibid.). This can give origin to “a more participated liturgy … that is better integrated and spiritually richer” (ibid.). 

In any case, Catholic migrants in countries where Christians are a minority could be true missionaries of the faith, especially through their life witness (cf. no. 51). This is what Pope Paul VI stated, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi ( no. 21), where he speaks specifically about the evangelizing mission of migrants in this beautiful and profound passage:

Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization. 

This testimony is bound to touch “people to whom Christ has never been proclaimed, or baptized people who do not practice, or people who live as nominal Christians but according to principles that are in no way Christian, or people who are seeking, and not without suffering, something or Someone whom they sense but cannot name” (ibid. 21). It is hence“a responsibility incumbent on immigrants in the country that receives them” (ibid.). 

With migrants of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, ecumenical dialogue is carried out, especially in “ecumenism of daily life” which strengthens at the grassroots level bonds of unity and charity, far from “facile irenicism”, as well as the other extreme, “proselytism” (cf. EMCC 56).

For migrants who are believers of other religions, “the Church is also concerned with their human development and with the witness of Christian charity” (no. 59). Thus we dialogue with them without losing “the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation” (ibid.). It is therefore a dialogue based on our identity, giving origin to mutual respect and the discovery of one another’s human and religious values. 

Thus dialogue and evangelization and mission are not opposites (I am reminded here of a beautiful speech given by Card. Kasper in this regard on the occasion of our last International Meeting of Catholic Chaplains of Civil Aviation, which will be published in our Review “People on the Move”), but inculturation is indispensable “as it is not possible to evangelize without entering into serious dialogue with cultures” (no. 36). This means dialogue also with migrants who have no religious convictions but are people of goodwill. 


The universal mission of the Church


In contemporary society, in general, “to which migration contributes by making it more and more multiethnic, intercultural and multireligious” (no. 96). Our Instruction underlines that “Christians are called to face a substantially new and fundamental chapter in the missionary task: that of being missionary in countries of long Christian tradition (cf. PaG 65 and 68). With great respect and attention for the migrants’ traditions and culture, we Christians are called to bear witness to the gospel of love and peace in our dealings with them and also to proclaim the Word of God explicitly to them so that the blessing of the Lord, promised to Abraham and his descendants for ever, may reach them” (EMCC 96).

The mission of the Church, in fact, is to go out again and again “to every person to proclaim Jesus Christ and, in Christ and the Church, to bring him into communion with all humanity” (no.97).


The Church and Christians, a sign of hope


It is to the Church that God has entrusted the “task of forging a new creation in Christ Jesus, recapitulating in Him (cf. Eph 1:9-10) all the rich treasures of human diversity that sin has transformed into division and conflict. To the extent that the mysterious presence of this new creation is genuinely witnessed to in its life, the Church is a sign of hope for a world that ardently desires justice, freedom, truth and solidarity, that is peace and harmony” (no. 102). Christians, too, urged by the phenomenon of human mobility, “become aware of their call to be always and repeatedly a sign of fraternity and communion in the world, by respecting differences and practising solidarity, in their ethics of meeting others” (ibid.). Migrants themselves should be “builders of such a universal fraternity” (no. 103), offering the local Churches “the opportunity to verify their catholicity, which consists not only in welcoming different ethnic groups, but above all in creating communion with them and among them” (ibid.). It is, in fact, not a common origin and language that makes the Church one, but “the Spirit of Pentecost which, [by] bringing together men and women of different languages and nations in one people, confers on them all faith in the same Lord and the calling to the same hope” (EMCC 103).




I cannot close my lectures without turning my gaze to Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, whom popular devotion refers to as the “Madonna of the Way”. This is also the conclusion of our Instruction:

May the Virgin Mother, who together with her Blessed Son knew the pain of emi-gration and exile, help us to understand the experience, and very often the drama, of those who are compelled to live far from their homeland, and teach us to serve them in their necessities, truly accepting them as brothers and sisters, so that today’s migra-tions may be considered a call, albeit a mysterious one, to the Kingdom of God, which is already present in His Church, its beginning, and an instrument of Providence to further the unity of the human family and peace (EMCC 104).

And to promote this Marian devotion, we published the “Rosary of Migrants and Itinerant People”.







Missione Universale


Tutta la Chiesa deve sentirsi interessata e mobilitata nei confronti dei migranti e far conoscere agli autoctoni i complessi problemi delle migrazioni, per contrastare sospetti infondati e pregiudizi offensivi verso gli stranieri (cf. EMCC 41). I migranti hanno bisogno di "gesti" che li facciano sentire accolti, riconosciuti e valorizzati come persone, cominciando da un semplice saluto o un sorriso.

Anche attraverso le migrazioni, si realizzerà tra le genti il disegno salvifico di Dio. Il fenomeno migratorio infatti mette in contatto fra loro persone di diversa nazionalità, etnia e religione, e così contribuisce a rendere visibile l'autentica fisionomia della Chiesa (cfr. GS 92), valorizzando la sua valenza ecumenica e dialogico-missionaria. Certo, bisogna assicurare che tale mescolanza di culture, religioni e credo non porti a tensioni e ciò si deve fare attraverso la strada del dialogo, che riconosce i valori in comune e rispetta le differenze.

La Chiesa ha un ruolo speciale in questo campo. Nella sua esperienza, la prima tappa all’integrazione è quella di aiutare i migranti a sentirsi a casa nella Chiesa locale. Lasciando la possibilità di essere se stessi per lingua, liturgia, spiritualità e tradizioni particolari, essi portano il loro contributo alla cattolicità della Chiesa. Tale esperienza può essere d’esempio per la società civile.

L’accoglienza dei migranti cattolici attraverso una pastorale specifica significa anche assicurare i fedeli delle Chiese Orientali Cattoliche della possibilità di osservare il proprio rito. Difatti tutti i migranti hanno il diritto – se possibile – di celebrare la liturgia secondo le proprie tradizioni e praticare le loro devozioni popolari.

In ogni caso i migranti cattolici in paesi di minoranza cristiana possono essere veri missionari della fede, soprattutto con la testimonianza di vita. Tale testimonianza è destinata a giungere a persone a cui Cristo non è stato mai annunciato, o ai battezzati che non praticano più la loro fede o non vivono secondo i principi cristiani, e altresì a persone che sono sinceramente in ricerca di qualcosa o Qualcuno che non conoscono.

Con i migranti delle altre Chiese e comunità ecclesiali occorre svolgere il dialogo ecumenico, soprattutto quello della vita. Con i fedeli delle altre religioni bisogna pure dialogare testimoniando la carità cristiana nella “convinzione che la Chiesa è la via ordinaria di salvezza e che solo essa possiede la pienezza dei mezzi di salvezza” (EMCC 59). Il dialogo e l’evangelizzazione infatti non sono opposti.

Con la testimonianza della vita e con la parola, quando è possibile, il migrante contribuisce alla missione della Chiesa che è quella di “andare verso ogni uomo per annunciargli Gesù Cristo e, in Lui e nella Chiesa, metterlo in comunione con tutta l'umanità” (no. 97). “I cristiani, sollecitati dal fenomeno della mobilità, prendono coscienza della loro chiamata ad essere, sempre e di nuovo, segno, nel mondo, di fraternità e comunione, praticando, nell'etica dell'incontro, il rispetto delle differenze e la solidarietà” (no. 103). I migranti stessi “possono essere i costruttori, nascosti e provvidenziali, di una tale fraternità universale” (ibid. 103).


1Message 2005, no. 3. Cf. also EMCC 36.


3Message 1994, no. 13. Cf. also EMCC 34-36.

4Message 1982, on "Specific Church Presence in the Structures and Organs for the Pastoral Care of Migration," concentrates on the specific purpose of these ecclesial structures and organisms. Regarding the development of pastoral approaches that respect and promote the languages and cultures and ecclesial traditions of migrants, see also CIC canons 787 §1, 769, 518, and 214.

5“The Right of Believing Migrants to Free Integration into the Church” (Message 1986). See also Message 1981, on “Respect and Increase the Cultural Identity of Migrants”.

6Message 1986.