The Holy See
back up

 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 107, August 2008






Q. What are the main challenges/problems facing the migrant/itinerant family today?

A. Let me make a premise. The situation of the family, in general, is reflected also in those of migrants and itinerant people. I must say that, besides all those things that come from outside the family and which are already quite well-known (thanks also to Erga migrantes caritas Christi, the Instruction that we issued four years ago), a serious problem that challenges families today comes right from the heart of the man and the woman who want to form a family. In our throwaway society, marriage is conceived as a contract that can be terminated as soon as the terms no longer satisfy the contracting parties. Nowadays, people in general do not think that the family goes beyond the sum total of its components. Actually, it is a single and new reality. Therefore its unity must be maintained, with all the joys and satisfactions, but also with all the suffering, sacrifices and pain that it entails. We, Christians, should remember that the family is that reality on earth that most resembles the life of the Blessed Trinity. Therefore we cannot abandon it as soon as some difficulty arises. A discussion on this would be too long here ....

Having said this, the families of people involved in human mobility have specific difficulties, related precisely to their status of being ‘on the move’. First of all, this generally means a separation of the members, when not the whole family leaves the country of origin. In any case, even if all the members would do so, it still means hardship for the whole family nucleus. It is exactly the difficulties that the family members experience in the host country that often cause family breakup.

Even those who work in tourism, or on board ships, feel the effect of family separation, even if it is only every now and then, and not permanently. Those who work in airports, on the other hand, have long and unusual working hours which have consequences on their family life. Long periods of separation - and this is also the case of refugees and displaced people - can unfortunately be the cause of infidelity on the part of the couple. Moreover, the absent parent very easily loses his/her authority (and maybe even the affection of) over the children. Whoever remains with the children is forced to fulfill the role of both mother and father, and the children feel the absence of the emigrant parent. Living in a foreign country, they become aware of the gap between their parents' culture and that of the country where they live, thus sensing a sort of double and divided belonging ... but let us stop here. 

Q. What can the Church propose as a means to solve the situation?

A. I would like to mention two. First, a continuing Christian formation for the youth, who will be those who will marry, and for families, so that they can be that seedbed of Christians, which is their vocation. If they know how to be Christians wherever they are and in whatever situation they would find themselves, they can face all the problems that assail families, although they will not be able to solve them always.

The second possible proposal is specifically related to human mobility, and I mean pastoral accompaniment of families in mobility, as is, in fact, already being done in the Church (see EMCC 21, 24, 32, 38, 49, 57, 77 and 100). It is now a matter of spreading this pastoral care more and more. I am referring to the chaplains and pastoral agents who carry out this mission in the various sectors of human mobility: among migrants, in refugee camps, in ports and airports, in tourist areas, among gypsies, circus and amusement park workers, in the universities. It means being there where these families are, to be with them in their moments of joy and most of all in painful situations, to help them finally discover the love of God in all the circumstances of life. If each member of the family experiences self-fulfillment, it is easier to keep the family together. 

Q.  Does the world today still accept the message/teaching of the Church?

A.  A Christian is someone who listens to the Word of God and puts it into practice. He will therefore listen also to the Pope and to the teaching of the Church, because in doing so he lives these Words of Jesus: "He who listens to you listens to me". It is not always easy to follow what the Church teaches because She does not go along with the fashion in our throwaway society. She tries to guide people to embrace God's design of love, and not to fabricate a god according to their own wishes. Therefore She cannot make compromises to build an easy road which is not according to God's plan for His creatures, for His children. She knows that doing this would be driving people to unhappiness. She therefore prefers not to deceive anyone, but to announce once more the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, blessed are the pure, blessed are the merciful ... Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven (Lk 6: 22-23).