Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 104, August 2007
MESSAGE TO THE participants
in the 7th Consultation Meeting
on the Filipino ministry in Europe*
Vatican City, 1st June 2007
Cordial greetings to the participants in the 7th Consultation Meeting on the Filipino Ministry in Europe, being held in Dublin, from 28th to 31st August 2007! This event has indeed a very meaningful theme: “Filipinos and their families, contributors to European Church and society.”
When Filipinos, in general, and Filipina women, in particular, began leaving their motherland to earn a living for themselves and their families, it was considered an economic phenomenon. In fact they were hailed as “modern heroes” not only because by the sweat of their brows they provided for the needs of their families and enabled their children to go to school, but even more because in spite of the suffering that their migration caused, they were sending back home precious foreign currency, that largely surpassed the income derived from the exportation of local products.
But as history, and not only contemporary history, has always shown, we, poor people of this earth, are short-sighted. We never guess, and much less understand, God’s ways, which, in fact, is mysterious. Until now we continue questioning His ways.
Yes indeed, destination countries offer opportunities to Filipino migrants, but the Filipinos and Filipinas, too, give a precious contribution to their societies. Europe, with its ageing population, needs a labor force willing to carry out jobs necessary for the maintenance and growth of its economy, that native workers are no longer disposed or able to do. Working parents need nannies for their children and, with the high percentage of elderly in the population, caregivers to take care of aged parents and relatives, not to speak of employees in nurseries and hospitals.
However, Filipinos and Filipinas in Europe are not just arms, not only labor force. Having come or being reunited with their children, they give witness to the importance of the family, a value that Europe has somehow lost, or at least neglected. They bring with them respect for elders and high regard for women, Filipino core values that Europe could recover or learn. As you know, integration is a two-way process. John Paul II said, in his last Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in 2005, that “we should encourage … a mutual fecundation of cultures. This implies reciprocal knowledge and openness between cultures, in a context of true understanding and benevolence.”
Of course, part and parcel of Filipino culture is Christianity, the very faith that the Philippines received half a millennium ago. Ironically, an important contribution that Filipinos and their families can offer Europe today is fulfilling a task “that Christ lays on your shoulders[, i.e. that] … in Europe you are called to be the new and youthful witness of that very Faith which your country received from Europe so many generations ago” (John Paul II, Homily at the Holy Mass on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Pontifical Philippine College, 17 May 1987).
The many real life stories of evangelization or re-evangelization by Filipino migrant workers in Europe are a proof that also simple life witnesses are eloquent vehicles of the gift of Christian faith.
Indeed John Paul II very aptly summarized the contribution that Filipinos give to the Church and society in Europe as follows: “All of us must work together to build the civilization of love” (at the Holy Mass celebrated with the Filipino migrants who live in Rome, on 1st December 2002). Then the Pope called on “those who employ you to welcome you and love you as cherished brothers and sisters in Christ” (ibid.), while he encouraged the Filipino migrants to continue “with trust and determination, along the path of faith and solidarity … which calls you to ‘communion’, ‘witness’ and ‘the proclamation of the Gospel’”.
Pope Benedict XVI, on his part, affirmed that “the migrant family is in a special way a resource as long as it is respected as such.” Therefore, he continued, “it must not suffer irreparable damage but must be able to stay united or to be reunited and carry out its mission as the cradle of life and the primary context where the human person is welcomed and educated” (Angelus on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 14 January 2007). May you who minister to Filipino migrants in Europe support them in carrying out the splendid mission that God has prepared for them.
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto
* Held in Dublin, from 28th to 31st August 2007.