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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 104, August 2007



Interreligious Dialogue and Catholic Higher Education from a Migration PERSPECTIVE* 


Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO


Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care

of  Migrants and Itinerant People


Migrations are one of the most complex challenges facing our world today. The inevitable changes brought about in society by the arrival of immigrants of a different ethnic origin are therefore a matter of public debate. In fact the migration question is high up on the international list of such matters. International migrants worldwide are estimated to number some 190,600,000, of whom 49% are women. The biggest concentration of migrants, some 60% of the total, is to be found in the industrialised countries. It is estimated that between 10% and 15% of these are illegal, while almost half are economically active, working and earning. Among migrants, there are also those who are forced to migrate (refugees) and IDPs.

Then there is the matter of international students, about 2 million in the world (half a million in the United States).

Our work consists in discerning facts and aspects of migration that will help us understand better the phenomenon so as to interpret this “sign of the times”[1] in a Christian light and offer our pastoral service to the world of human mobility. Migrations have always been at the centre of the Church’s care[2]. Initiatives of many kinds show that the Church has carefully followed developments in this changeable sector and has been actively engaged, especially pastorally but also in the purely social and humanitarian field, to ensure that foreigners should be fully accepted and integrated into society. The Church’s ultimate aim is an authentic communion with respect for legitimate diversities and with no intent of proselytism in the negative sense attached to the term today. In any event, for immigrants, too, rights go hand in hand with duties.

The recent activity of the Holy See shows careful attention to the continuous changes in the phenomenon of mobility and to the different requirements of people today. The aim is “to respond especially to the new spiritual and pastoral needs of migrants” in “an ecumenical and interreligious vision of the phenomenon because migrants now include Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church and growing numbers of persons of other religions, in particular Moslems” (Erga migrantes caritas Christi – EMCC – No. 3)[3].

A field in which the Church is constantly committed at various levels especially pastorally is that of basic human rights, which are valid for migrants too. Specific initiatives and Messages of the Holy Father, various activities to stir the conscience of international organisations and the governments of migrants’ home countries, their temporary residence or their host countries all form part of the Church’s strategy. In this the sacredness of the human person[4], especially when weak and marginalised, remains central. This has led to “important developments in the realms of theology and pastoral work, namely: the centrality of the person and the defence of the rights of migrants, men or women, and of their children; the ecclesial and missionary dimension of migrations; the revaluation of the lay apostolate and the value of different cultures in the work of evangelisation; the safeguarding and appreciation of minorities even within the Church itself; the importance of dialogue both within the sphere of the Church and with others outside it; the specific contribution of emigration to world peace” (EMCC No. 27). For this reason the Church is extremely anxious to welcome all migrants and accompany them pastorally, especially when the influx of legal migrants is accompanied by illegal migrants who are a source of worry and are quite often criminalised. Moreover the presence of unscrupulous evil-doers, speculating on human tragedy and encouraging human slave trading, increases xenophobia and sometimes gives rise to racialism (cf. EMCC Nos. 29 and 41).

The Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi makes suitable proposals for projects consonant with the lives of migrants. With regard to their reception it distinguishes between “help in general (immediate short-term reception), real reception (longer-term projects) and integration (a long-term objective to be followed up constantly)” (No. 42). In the last named case, an important question is looked at and the difficult concept of how to integrate migrants in the society of the host country is examined in a new light: the idea of assimilation is rejected in favour of meeting and legitimate cultural exchange. In fact the Instruction insists  on the creation of intercultural societies with their component elements capable of interacting and enriching each other, which goes beyond a multicultural concept limited to a mere juxtaposition of different cultures[5].

Dialogue, especially intercultural and interreligious dialogue, is the Church’s mission today because “in recent years the presence of immigrants of other religions in traditionally Christian countries has become more and more marked” (EMCC No. 59). The great diversity of their cultural and religious origins poses new challenges and new outlooks, giving dialogue a central place in the pastoral care of migrants. The Church is called to develop “a dialogue that must be practised in the conviction that the Church is the ordinary way of salvation and that it alone possesses the full ness of the means of salvation” (ibid.). At the same time “everything possible must be done to help migrants of other religions so that they do not lose the transcendent dimension of life” (ibid.).

In the matter of human mobility the Church offers its help to all, irrespective of race or religion, respecting in all the inalienable dignity of the human person created in the image of God and redeemed by the Blood of Christ. To dialogue with others “requires that the catholic communities welcoming them should be all the more aware of their own identity, verify their faith in Christ, know well what their faith teaches, rediscover their missionary calling and therefore commit themselves to bear witness to Jesus the Lord and His gospel. This is... the prerequisite for conducting a sincere dialogue that is open, respects all, but is neither ingenuous nor ill equipped” (EMCC No. 60)[6].

Certain values are common to both the Christian faith and other beliefs. But it must be borne in mind that “beside these convergences there are also divergences, some of which have to do with the legitimate acquisitions of modern times” (EMCC No. 66). For immigrants therefore the first step they must take is to respect the laws and values of their host society, including its religious values, otherwise it becomes meaningless to talk of integration. The Church for its part is called to live its identity to the full; it must not fail to bear witness, including the “respectful proclamation” of its faith (cf. EMCC No. 9). Finally, another thing to be remembered is the important principle of reciprocity[7], “understood not as a mere give-and-take attitude but as a relationship based on mutual respect and on justice in juridical and religious dealings. Reciprocity is also an attitude of the heart and the spirit that enables us to live together everywhere with equal rights and duties. A healthy reciprocity urges us to become an ‘advocate’ for the rights of minorities when our own religious community forms the majority. This reminds us of the numerous Christian migrants in countries where the majority of the population is not Christian and in which the right of freedom of religion is severely restricted or suppressed” (EMCC No. 64).

It remains true, however, that solidarity, cooperation, interdependence among nations and the just distribution of the goods of the earth all indicate the vital need to work with determination especially in those countries where migrations originate so as to remove the inequalities that lead individuals or populations to abandon their own natural and cultural environment (cf. EMCC Nos. 4; 8-9; 39-43). For its part the Church never ceases to encourage all, but in particular Christian communities, to be open and welcoming to others including migrants. The Church affirms that “in spite of the repeated failure of human projects, even noble projects, Christians, stirred by the phenomenon of mobility, are aware of their calling to be always and repeatedly a sign of fraternity and communion in the world, showing respect for differences and solidarity in their meeting with others” (EMCC No. 102).

Finally it must be recognised that migration is a process in constant evolution, that it will continue to be present as society develops and will transform our world into an intercultural world in which dialogue, including dialogue in the ecumenical and interreligious fields, will enable us to learn to live with our legitimate diversities.

With the help of the background I have sketched it will not be difficult for you to single out the points of contact with “Catholic Higher Education”, bearing in mind especially international students[8], but not only these.

Here there is ample room for study and research especially by catholic universities and, I would say, by colleges and also seminaries. I would also draw attention to letters addressed by our Pontifical Council in conjunction with other offices of the Roman Curia to the Bishops of the Oriental Catholic Churches and to Diocesan Ordinaries on the pastoral care of human mobility, to the superiors and general superiors of the institutes of consecrated life, the societies of apostolic life and the secular institutes, to Diocesan Bishops and the rectors of seminaries, to the heads and members of Church movements and lay associations[9].

In conclusion I would say that today “Catholic Higher Education”, while respecting the specific role of all others, cannot and must not fail to play its part in the sector of human mobility and in the specific pastoral care pertaining to that field.


Dialogo Interreligioso, dal punto di vista delle Migrazioni, ed Educazione Cattolica Superiore 

   Le migrazioni sono uno dei fenomeni più complessi del nostro tempo. Quelle internazionali si aggirano sui 190,600.000, di cui il 60% riguarda i Paesi industrializzati, con  il 49% di donne. Il 10-15% degli immigrati è irregolare. Tra gli emigrati ci sono da considerare anche i rifugiati, gli sfollati, gli studenti internazionali (circa due milioni, di cui mezzo milione negli Stati Uniti d’America).

     Il Pontificio Consiglio discerne fatti e aspetti dell’emigrazione che aiutano a capire meglio il fenomeno della mobilità e a interpretare questo segno dei tempi alla luce del Vangelo,  proponendo una pastorale al servizio dei migranti.

    La Santa Sede segue con molta  attenzione i continui cambiamenti del fenomeno migratorio con lo scopo di rispondere adeguatamente alle esigenze spirituali dei Migranti, tenendo presente, naturalmente, l’aspetto economico nonchè interreligioso (Erga migrantes caritas Christi n. 3).

     L’Istruzione EMCC presenta delle proposte per salvaguardare i migranti. La Chiesa offre loro un’ accoglienza immediata ed una a lunga durata e li prepara ad integrarsi nella società che li ospita (EMCC n. 42). L’Istruzione rifiuta l’assimilazione e promuove una società interculturale.

    Il dialogo interreligioso ed interculturale fa parte della missione della Chiesa oggi (EMCC n. 59). Essa  offre il suo aiuto a tutti, senza discriminazione di razza, e religione, con rispetto della dignità umana. Il dialogo richiede, alle comunità cattoliche, accoglienza nel rispetto della identità propria e altrui  (EMCC n. 60), tenendo presente che a volte si hanno valori comuni, mentre altri sono divergenti (EMCC n. 66). Si invitano, comunque, gli immigrati a rispettare le leggi e i valori della società ospitante.

         Un  principio importante qui è quello  della reciprocità con base sul mutuo rispetto. Essa è un atteggiamento del cuore e dello spirito che ci permette di vivere insieme con uguali diritti e doveri. La difesa dei diritti delle minoranze è dunque necessaria (EMCC n. 64). 

    Solidarietà, cooperazione, interdipendenza, e giusta distribuzione dei beni della terra sono  elementi su cui lavorare con determinazione per il bene dei  migranti o di chi vorrebbe esserlo (EMCC nn. 4,8-9; 49-43).

     I Centri di educazione superiore cattolica (Università, Collegi, Seminari, ecc.) devono impegnarsi quindi ad approfondire il fenomeno della mobilità umana, tenendo presente soprattutto alcune lettere scritte dal Pontificio Consiglio, congiuntamente ad altri Organismi della Curia Romana, ai Vescovi delle Chiese Orientali Cattoliche e agli Ordinari delle diocesi, ai Superiori generali di Istituti di Vita Consacrata, ai Responsabili delle Associazioni di Vita Apostolica, degli Istituti Secolari, ai Rettori di Seminari, ecc.


Der inter-religiöse Dialog aus der Sicht der Migration und der katholischen höheren Erziehung 

Die Migrationen sind eines der komplexesten Phänomene unserer Zeit. Die internationalen Migrationen betragen ungefähr 190.600.000, davon entfallen 60% auf die industrialisierten Länder, mit einem weiblichen Anteil von 49%. 10-15% der Immigranten sind irreguläre Einwanderer. Unter die Immigranten werden auch die Flüchtlinge, die Ausgewiesenen, die ausländischen Studenten (ungefähr zwei Millionen, davon kommt eine halbe Million auf die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika) gezählt.

Der Päpstliche Rat unterscheidet die Tatsachen und die Aspekte der Emigration von einander, so ist das Phänomen der Mobilität besser zu verstehen und dieses Zeichen der Zeit im Licht des Evangeliums besser auszulegen, um eine Pastoral für die Migranten vorzuschlagen.

Der Heilige Stuhl verfolgt mit großer Aufmerksamkeit die dauernden Veränderungen dieses Migration-Phänomens, um in geeigneter Weise auf die spirituellen Bedürfnisse der Migranten antworten zu können, natürlich unter Beachtung des wirtschaftlichen wie auch des inter-religiösen Aspektes (Erga Migrantes Carits Christi Nr. 3).

Die Instruktion EMCC stellt Vorschläge vor für den Schutz der Migranten. Die Kirche bietet ihnen sofortige Aufnahme, auch auf längere Zeit und bereitet sie vor auf die Integration in die Gastgesellschaft (EMCC Nr. 42). Die Instruktion lehnt die Assimilation ab und fördert eine interkulturelle Gesellschaft.

Der inter-religiöse und inter-kulturelle Dialog ist Teil der Mission der Kirche heute (EMCC Nr. 59). Sie bietet allen ohne Ausnahme ihre Hilfe an, ohne Blick auf die Rasse und die Religion und alles unter großer Achtung der menschlichen Würde. Der Dialog verlangt von den katholischen Gemeinden die Aufnahme unter Achtung der eigenen Identität und der der anderen (EMCC Nr. 60), unter Bedacht, dass die Werte manchmal gemeinsamer Art sind, während andere auch verschieden sein können (EMCC Nr. 66). Die Immigranten aber werden eingeladen, die Gesetze und die Werte der Gastgesellschaft zu achten.

Ein wichtiges Prinzip ist das der Wechselseitigkeit auf der Basis des gegenseitigen Respekts. Dies ist ein Verhalten des Herzens und des Geistes, das uns erlaubt zusammen zu leben mit gleichen Rechten und Pflichten. Die Verteidigung der Rechte der Minderheiten ist also eine Notwendigkeit (EMCC Nr. 64).

Solidarität, Zusammenarbeit, gegenseitige Abhängigkeit und eine gerechte Verteilung der Güter der Erde sind die Elemente auf denen man mit Entschlossenheit für das Wohl der Migranten, oder der, die es sein möchten, arbeiten kann (EMCC, Nr.4,8-9; 49-43).

Die katholischen Oberschulen (Universitäten, Kollege, Seminare) müssen sich also für eine vertiefte Betrachtung des Phänomens der menschlichen Mobilität einsetzen und sich dabei besonders an einigen Dokumente des Päpstlichen Rates orientieren, die er zusammen mit anderen Organismen der Römischen Kurie, den Bischöfen der Katholischen Ostkirchen und den Diözesanbischöfen, den Generalobern der Institute des geweihten Lebens, den Verantwortlichen der Vereinigungen des Apostolischen Lebens, den Säkularinstituten, den Rektoren der Seminare, usw. herausgegeben hat.


Le dialogue interreligieux vu dans la perspective des migrations, et l'éducation catholique supérieure 

Les migrations sont l'un des phénomènes plus complexes de notre époque. Les migrations internationales concernent environ 190.600.000 personnes, dont 60 % ressortent des pays industrialisés, 49 % étant constitués par les femmes. 10 à 15 % des immigrants sont irréguliers. Parmi les émigrés, il faut aussi compter les réfugiés, les expulsés, les étudiants internationaux (2 millions environ, dont ¼ dans les Etats-Unis d'Amérique).

Le Conseil Pontifical identifie les faits et les aspects de l'émigration qui aident à mieux comprendre le phénomène de la mobilité et à interpréter ce signe des temps à la lumière de l'Evangile, en proposant une pastorale au service des migrants.

C'est avec beaucoup d'attention que le Saint-Siège suit les changements continuels du phénomène migratoire, afin de pouvoir répondre de façon appropriée aux exigences spirituelles des migrants, en ayant toujours à l'esprit l'aspect économique mais aussi interreligieiux (Erga migrantes caritas Christi, 3).

L'Instruction EMCC présente des propositions dans le but de protéger les migrants. L'Eglise leur offre un accueil immédiat mais aussi de longue durée et elle les prépare à s'intégrer dans la société qui les reçoit (EMCC, 42). L'Instruction refuse toute assimilation et encourage une société interculturelle.

Le dialogue interreligieux et interculturel fait partie de la mission de l'Eglise aujourd'hui (EMCC, 59). Celle-ci offre son aide à tous, sans discrimination de race ou de religion, et dans le respect de la dignité humaine. Le dialogue exige des communautés catholiques un accueil dans le respect de l'identité de tous et de chacun (EMCC, 60), en tenant compte de ce que, parfois, il existe des valeurs communes, mais aussi des valeurs divergentes (EMCC, 66). Mais les immigrés sont toujours invités à respecter les lois et les valeurs de la société d'accueil.

Un principe qui est important ici est celui de la réciprocité basée sur le respect mutuel. Il s'agit d'une attitude du cœur et de l'esprit qui nous permet de vivre ensemble en ayant les mêmes droits et les mêmes devoirs. Aussi, est-il nécessaire de défendre les droits des minorités (EMCC, 64).

Solidarité, coopération, interdépendance et distribution juste des biens de la terre : tels sont les éléments sur lesquels travailler avec détermination pour le bien des migrants ou de tous ceux qui voudraient immigrer (EMCC, 4,8-9 ; 49,43).

Les Centres d'éducation supérieure catholique (universités, collèges, séminaires, etc.) doivent donc faire tout leur possible pour approfondir le phénomène de la mobilité humaine, en tenant compte surtout des lettres écrites à ce sujet par le Conseil Pontifical, conjointement à d'autres organismes de la Curie romaine, aux Evêques des Eglises orientales catholiques et aux Ordinaires des diocèses, aux Supérieurs généraux des Instituts de Vie consacrée, aux Responsables des Associations de Vie apostolique et des Instituts séculiers, aux Recteurs de Séminaires, etc.


* Address given at the Luncheon session organised by the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas Rome, 20/06/2007

[1]  Cf. Benedict XVI, Message for  the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2006: Oss. Rom. 254 (29.10.2005), p. 4; A. Marchetto, “Migrations: a sign of the times”: published by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, The Church’s care for migrants (Quaderni Universitari, Part I), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2005, pp. 28-40.

[2]  To take the last century only: With prophetic intuition Pius XII wrote his Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia (AAS XLIV [1952] 649-704), considered the Magna Charta of the Church’s thought on migrations. Later Paul VI, continuing and practising the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, wrote the Motu Proprio Pastoralis Migratorum Cura (AAS LXI [1969] 601-603), promulgating the Instruction of the Congregation for Bishops De Pastorali Migratorum Cura  (AAS LXI [1969] 614-643). Then, in 1978, the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migration and Tourism addressed a circular letter to the Episcopal Conferences The Church and Human Mobility (AAS LXX [1978] 357-378). Cfr. our Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, Nos. 19-33, see note 3 ; Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (editor), The Church’s care for migrants (Quaderni Universitari Part I), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2005, A. Marchetto, “The Church of the Council and pastoral care of welcome”: People on the Move XXXVIII (102, 2006), pp. 131-145.

[3]  In 2004 the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People published the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi: AAS  XCVI (2004) 762-822 and People on the Move  XXXVI (95, 2004) and the website: curia/pontifical councils/migrants. See also the comments on the Instruction in People on the Move XXXVII (98, 2005), pp. 23-125, especially on the topics of ecumenism and the interreligious dialogue, pp. 45-63.

[4]  See for example the Pontifical Message for the World Day of Peace 2007 on “The human person, the heart of peace”: Oss. Rom. 146 (44.429 – 13.12.2006), pp. 4-5.

[5]  The topics of this important chapter in the pastoral care of human mobility are dealt with in Migranti e pastorale d’accoglienza, edited by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (Quaderni Universitari, Part II), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2006.

[6] Cf. The minutes of the XVII Plenary Session of our Pontifical Council held from 15 to 17 May 2006 on the subject of “Migration and movement from and to countries of Islamic majority”: People on the Move XXXVIII (101 Suppl, 2006). For the interreligious dialogue see in particular pp. 187-224. No. 11 of the conclusions and recommendations is of special interest: “It was moreover seen how important it is to distinguish what these societies can or cannot tolerate in Islamic culture, what must be respected or shared in relation to the faithful of other religions (see EMCC 65 and 66), so as to be able to give indications to politicians too for drawing up civil legislation that will respect the competence of all”: ibid. p. 43.

[7]  Benedict XVI, too, has made reference to this. See People on the Move XXXVIII (101 Suppl., 2006), p. 5.

[8]  See the final statement of the Second World Congress for the Pastoral Care of International Students organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in December 2005: http:// students_it.htm. The First Congress with the theme: The Role of the Church in the World of Foreign Students. Proceedings of the First World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Foreign Students (Rome, 17-19 September 1996) published by Leberit Printing Press, Rome 1996.

[9]  See People on the Move XXXVII (No. 99, 2005) p. 89-221.