Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 102, December 2006
MESSAGE for the Fifth International Consultation Meeting on the Filipino Ministry Worldwide*
Vatican City, 29th August 2006
Prot. N. 2531/2006/M
dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Once again the Philippine Church has convoked an International Consultation Meeting, this year in your own beloved country, from 11th to 15th September, to assess its ministry to Filipinos who have left their native land and to seek enlightenment on how to improve it in the future. Allow me, first of all, to express my deep gratitude to the Philippine Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People and, particularly, to each and everyone of you, clergy, religious and lay pastoral agents, for your untiring efforts to stand beside your fellow-Filipinos overseas, not only to support and defend them by upholding their dignity and rights, but especially to help them experience God’s infinite love in the midst of the inevitable suffering that migration entails. Moreover, migration can be considered “a sign of the living presence of God in history … [and] a providential opportunity for the fulfillment of God’s plan for a universal communion” (Erga migrantes caritas Christi, no. 9). It is indeed towards this universal family that human mobility is leading humankind. From this point of view, the affliction and pain that accompany migration can be looked upon as “the birth-pangs” of a new humankind (cf. ibid., no. 12), and migration itself as “a challenge to be discovered and utilized in our work to renew humanity and proclaim the gospel of peace” (ibid., no. 14).
“Appraising Filipino Diaspora and its Challenges to Evangelization”, the theme of this Fifth edition of your Consultation Meeting, is therefore timely. It looks into both sides of conveying the good news among Filipinos and Filipino communities abroad: how they are to be better evangelized and what their role is in the evangelization process.
In his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2001, Pope John Paul II recalled that the pastoral care for migrants started as a safeguard of their faith, which was in danger under the circumstances in which they were living in their destination country. Through the years, it has become a response to the right of migrants to have their cultural heritage duly respected even in the pastoral field, but it does not stop there. When the Church began to introduce adequate forms of pastoral action, it already foresaw “that migration could become an effective way of spreading the faith in other countries” (no. 4).
History proved this intuition to be correct. As the Holy Father observed in the aforementioned Message, “in those cases wherein the Catholic faithful were accompanied during their move to other countries, they did not only preserve their faith, but also found a fertile soil to deepen it, personalize it and bear witness to it through their lives. In the course of the centuries, migration represented a constant means of proclaiming the Christian message in entire regions” (no. 6).
Dear Filipino pastoral agents, it has been decades that you are accompanying your fellow citizens abroad, to strengthen them in their faith, to share with them their joys and griefs. You have been trying to build, for and with them, a home away from home and to edify a Church that preserves Filipino customs and popular devotions, in the local host Churches. It is indeed opportune to pause for a while and see how effective you have been in making them grow into adult Christians and in building mature Filipino Christian communities.
However, the time has come for Catholic Filipino migrants to realize that bearing witness to their faith with their lives and proclaiming the Christian message as far as possible are not an optional for them, but an opportunity and a responsibility. In fact, when Pope John Paul II sounded out his invitation to “new evangelization”, he was expecting from the Church “a new sense of mission, which cannot be left to a group of ‘specialists’ but must involve the responsibility of all the members of the People of God” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, no. 40). Indeed all Filipino Catholics, including the migrants to whom you minister, are a part of this. Your pastoral care has surely led them to come into genuine contact with Christ, and therefore “they cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him” (ibid.).
This is particularly urgent today when “even in countries evangelized many centuries ago, the reality of a ‘Christian society’, which, amid all the frailties which have always marked human life, measured itself explicitly on Gospel values, is now gone” (ibid.). At the same time there are different nations with diverse cultures in which the Christian message needs to “be planted, in such a way that the particular values of each people will not be rejected but purified and brought to their fullness” (ibid.).
In both types of societies, we can find many Filipino migrants, who are in contact with new forms of poverty, like despair at the lack of meaning in life, or fear of abandonment especially in old age or sickness, etc. In the very act of performing the task for which they have been employed, they can carry on the tradition of Christian charity not only by ensuring effective help but also by being close to those who suffer (cf. ibid). They themselves may also be thrown into difficult situations which require unconditional fidelity to “the demands of the Lord’s law” and by doing so, they experience the “liberating force of God’s love” (Veritatis Splendor, no. 107). If they are faithful and determined to live out a genuine Christian life, without counting the cost, and carry out the new evangelization “not only through the gift of the word proclaimed but also of the word lived” (ibid.) then it “will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force” (ibid.). This is vital in present times, when people no longer listen to teachers unless they are also witnesses (cf. Redemptoris Missio, no. 42).
In your effort to examine the situation of Filipino diaspora and its challenges to evangelization, let the words that Pope Benedict XVI addressed to the participants in the last Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People be an encouragement to you: “May it escape no one that [migration] is a significant frontier in the new evangelization in the current globalized world.”
Heartily welcoming and supporting your endeavour and assuring you of our prayers for the success of the Consultation Meeting, I remain
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto
*Tagaytay, Philippines, 11-15 September 2006.