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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 111, December 2009




A pastoral response to MIGRATORY PHENOMENON in the ERA of globalisation.

Five years AFTER the

Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi


H.E. Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO

Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the
Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People


"The love of Christ towards migrants urges us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14) to look afresh at their problems, which are to be met with today all over the world. In fact nearly all countries are now faced with the eruption of the migration phenomenon in one aspect or another; it affects their social, economic, political and religious life and is becoming more and more a permanent structural phenomenon.[1] Thus begins the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi (The love of Christ towards migrants, hereinafter EMCC), approved by Pope John Paul II on 1 May 2004, Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, and published by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on 3 May 2004. The Document aimed "to update the pastoral care of migration thirty-five years after the publication of Pope Paul VI’s Motu Proprio Pastoralis migratorum cura and the Congregation for Bishops’ related Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura" (EMCC, Presentation).

Today, five years later, we are delighted to see that our Instruction was “received” – and this word is theological – by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in his first social encyclical Caritas in veritate[2] (cf. no. 62). The faithful are thus called on to pay attention to migration which is defined as "a social phenomenon of epoch-making proportions" that requires "bold, forward-looking policies of international cooperation" if it is to be handled effectively (ibid.).  

1. Causes of migration

Amongst the causes that lead millions of men and women to emigrate, in his recent encyclical Pope Benedict XVI includes “extreme insecurity as a consequence of food shortages” (no. 27) and the issues of water, agriculture (ibid.), the environment (no. 48) and energy (no. 49). Obviously, everything is considered in terms of rights and duties (see no. 43), and taking into account the direct connection between “poverty and unemployment” and “decent work” (no. 63), which is a right for all workers, including temporary ones (see no. 64 and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families).

However, we should also take into account the Pope's assertion that: "On this earth there is room for everyone: here the entire human family must find the resources to live with dignity, through the help of nature itself – God's gift to his children – and through hard work and creativity" (no. 50). In any case, we need to adopt “new lifestyles” (no. 51), and this is closely connected with education (see no. 61), without neglecting the need to construct "a new [world] order of economic productivity, socially responsible and human in scale" (no. 41).

Another cause of migration – and at the same time its effect – is globalisation, namely the “explosion of worldwide interdependence” (no. 33), already foreseen by Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio. Per se, globalisation has greatly contributed to bringing entire regions out of underdevelopment. However, globalisation "could [also] cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family" (ibid.). Indeed, "As society becomes ever more globalised, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity". And the Pope includes this "lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples" among the major causes of underdevelopment (no. 19). This greater closeness between persons now needs to be transformed into real communion if we wish to achieve genuine development of peoples. Indeed, this "depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side" (no. 53).

2. The connection between migration and development

The connection between migration and development is rather complex[3], because the cause-and-effect ratio between the two terms of the binomial is not linear. It is believed that lack of development in countries of origin triggers emigration, because it is difficult to ensure a decent life in them, or even meet basic survival needs for oneself and one's family. Yet emigration itself can also generate a lack of development, which becomes quite difficult if a country of origin is deprived of its best human resources who are used to make a significant contribution to local production and its ancillary processes.

In any case, we are faced with "a striking phenomenon because of the sheer numbers of people involved, the social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it raises, and the dramatic challenges it poses to nations and the international community" (no. 62). It is estimated that after 2010 an average of 2.3 million people will migrate from developing countries (Africa, Asia except for Japan, Latin America and the Caribbean, Oceania except for Australia and New Zealand) to developed countries (North America, Australia, Europe, Japan, New Zealand), thereby ensuring that populations do not decline. Since 1960, the number of migrants to more developed regions has risen steadily, peaking at an average of 3.3 million people per annum between 2005 and 2008, and is then projected to fall to 2.3 million per annum until 2050. Therefore, in the next 40 years the demand in developed countries for workers from developing countries will be high.[4]  

3. Highly qualified immigrants

Many host countries implement a policy of targeting highly qualified and skilled workers from developing countries, including university and post-graduate students, with a view to encouraging them to stay. This raises the tricky issue of the brain drain. However, it is argued that this occurs only if it is unmistakably obvious that emigration has had a negative impact on the socio-economic situation of the country of origin. In any case, the negative effect of qualified emigration is mainly associated with permanent transfer, because otherwise returnees have the opportunity to communicate the know-how they have acquired abroad to their fellow countrymen. There is also the possibility of returnees investing locally savings they have accumulated whilst working abroad. Finally, remittances, which are a substantial source of income in many developing countries, should be taken into account. The advantage that countries of origin draw from the emigration of their citizens undoubtedly depends on the planning and implementation of policies that maximise the benefits and minimise the costs.[5]  

4. Other immigrants

There are, however, other types of emigration, more numerous and also more painful, as these migrants are not privileged people sought after by employers who need professional or technological skills and knowledge that are not easily found locally. These other kinds of migrants are also necessary because they are prepared to carry out duties that local people no longer wish to take on. Therefore, host countries are crowded with immigrants whom countries of origin are no longer able to absorb in their labour markets. These immigrants are seeking better opportunities for their lives, sometimes following dreams that will come up against harsh realities.

And what about those who have fled their native land as a result of war, violence or persecution for political, ethnic or religious reasons, or due to their beliefs? Or those who have escaped from natural or man-made environmental disasters?

"We are all witnesses of the burden of suffering, the dislocation and the aspirations that accompany the flow of migrants" (no. 62), wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his recent Encyclical. And unfortunately suffering and hardship do not end with crossing the border, which in the mind of the emigrant represents the beginning of a new life; fortunately, however, such aspirations often last. And for Christians, sorrows and aspirations can be opportunities for nourishing hope, "a powerful social resource at the service of integral human development" (no. 34).

5. Integration, but not assimilation

Living in a society different from one's own poses a real challenge to immigrants, who are confronted with a burning issue that can also disorientate them: integration (cf. no. 62 of the encyclical Caritas in veritate).

Does integration mean that immigrants must adapt themselves to the local model of life, to the extent of becoming copies of the native people, thus neglecting their own legitimate cultural roots? If this were the case, they would be assimilated rather than integrated. Besides, young immigrants might be immediately attracted by this type of "inclusion", although not always.[6] The problem is that such assimilation also constitutes an impoverishment of the host society, because the cultural and human contribution made by immigrants is thus minimised or even cancelled out. Undoubtedly, immigrants should take the necessary steps to be socially included in their places of arrival, but this process should respect the cultural heritage that everyone brings with them.[7]

At the opposite extreme, however, immigrants finding themselves in a new environment may become aware of their own identity, which is perhaps more strongly felt than ever before. Thus they make seek company and security amongst others who come from the same country and culture. However, if they fail to open themselves up to the wider reality of the host society, they run the risk of forming a ghetto with their fellow countrymen, as well as consequent marginalisation.

Pope John Paul II, in his last Message for World Migration Day (2005), reaffirms the definition used by EMCC, which does not opt for integration as “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’, to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better. This is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings. In this process the migrant is intent on taking the necessary steps towards social inclusion, such as learning the national language and complying with the laws and requirements at work, so as to avoid the occurrence of exasperated differentiation".[8]

However, it should be borne in mind that integration is not a one-way street. Nor is it a road to be travelled only by immigrants, but also by the host society, which through contact with them discovers their “richness”, thereby acquiring the values of their culture.[9] Therefore, true integration occurs where interaction between immigrants and the native population is not limited to social and economic relations, but is fully acted out, including in the area of culture. Both parties, however, should be willing to do so, because the driver of integration is dialogue, which presupposes a reciprocal relationship.[10]  

6. Technical-economic repercussions

It is interesting to note, however, that intercultural relations also have economic repercussions. In his encyclical Caritas in veritate the Pope reminds us that "the reduction of cultures to the technological dimension, even if it favours short-term profits, in the long term impedes reciprocal enrichment and the dynamics of cooperation,” inasmuch "as workers tend to adapt passively to automatic mechanisms, rather than to release creativity” (no. 32). And technological development is produced "through human creativity as a tool of personal freedom” (no. 70). Nevertheless, the dangers represented by technification (no. 48 and no. 32) and the double-edged sword of technology (nos. 69-71) must be taken into account. The Church's social doctrine holds that "authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity, and not only outside it or 'after' it" (no. 36).

These relationships facilitate recognition of the "significant contribution [made by migrant workers] to the economic development of the host country through their labour, besides that which they make to their country of origin through the money they send home" (no. 62). Migrant workers thus form an economic "bridge", amongst other things, between their countries of origin and host countries. Their work connects human beings, but also creates a relationship of interdependence between nations.

It should, however, be emphasised that migrant workers are persons "in the image of God". Indeed, they are working persons and the various tasks they carry out, regardless of the kind of activity, should lead to the realisation of their humanity and fulfilment of their vocation as persons. It is not the kind of work they do that determines their value, but rather the fact that they act as persons.[11] Therefore, migrant workers are not to be considered as "merchandise or merely manpower", nor "be treated just like any other factor of production". Every migrant "enjoys inalienable fundamental rights which must be respected in all cases” (no. 62, cf. EMCC, no. 5).

The search for employment, which increasingly leads men and women to look beyond the borders of their own countries, with or without authorisation from the countries of arrival, involves almost all nations in the issue of migration, whether as countries of origin, transit and/or destination. Consequently the Pope wrote that "we are facing a social phenomenon of epoch-making proportions that requires bold, forward-looking policies of international cooperation if it is to be handled effectively" (no. 62). Such policies require "close collaboration between the migrants' countries of origin and their countries of destination; it should be accompanied by adequate international norms able to coordinate different legislative systems with a view to safeguarding the needs and rights of individual migrants and their families, and at the same time, those of the host countries" (ibid.). It is worth bearing in mind, in this respect, that an important step to be taken by those governments that have not yet done so, is ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nation with Resolution 45/158, of 18 December 1990, which came into force on 1 July 2003. We have already mentioned this above, and it has been requested by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, as well as by Erga migrantes caritas Christi.

7. Conclusions

Caritas in veritate, by placing us before the greatest challenges of our time, warns of the risk "that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development" (no. 9). "The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf. Romans 12:21), opening up the path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties" (ibid.). In this regard, the EMCC "raises a truly ethical question: the search for a new international economic order for a more equitable distribution of the goods of the earth. This would make a real contribution to reducing and checking the flow of a large number of migrants from populations in difficulty". Indeed, it is acknowledged that such a new order requires "a new vision of the world community, considered as a family of peoples, for whom the goods of the earth are ultimately destined when things are seen from the perspective of the universal common good" (EMCC, no. 8).

In fact, “No country can be expected to address today's problems of migration by itself” (Caritas in Veritate, no. 62). In our "increasingly globalised society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations, in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God" (no. 7).

I will conclude with a brief presentation of the agenda for the next few days.

This afternoon will be dedicated to movements of populations, as both cause and effect of globalisation. First of all we will listen to Prof. Stefano ZAMAGNI, lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Bologna. This will be followed by a round table where attempts will be made to put forward "A pastoral response to urbanisation and internal migration”. Participants will include: from Africa, His Eminence John Cardinal NJUE, Archbishop of Nairobi (Kenya); from Asia, His Eminence Jean-Baptiste Cardinal PHAM MINH MÂN, Archbishop Thàn-Phô Hô Chí Minh (Vietnam); and from the Americas, His Eminence Odilo Pedro Cardinal SCHERER, Archbishop of São Paulo (Brazil). I would like to point out that Erga migrantes caritas Christi devotes two points to internal migration.

At the end of the session, the speakers will answer your questions. The participants will then divide up into working groups to explore the issues presented in-depth, and the results of the working groups will be presented at a plenary session at the end of the day. By and large, this working method will be used for each session.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 10 November, the morning will be dedicated to the pastoral care of young people in the world of migrants and refugees and cooperation between the Churches of origin and arrival. We will be given a speech by the Regional Superior of the Scalabrinian Missionaries for Europe and Africa, the Reverend Father Gabriele PAROLIN on “Specific pastoral care for young and adolescent migrants and refugees”. The subsequent round table will be dedicated to “Cooperation between Churches of origin and welcome in the pastoral care of migrants and refugees”, with participation by H.E. Msgr Paul RUZOKA, Archbishop of Tabora (Tanzania); H.E. Msgr Renato Ascencio LEÓN, Bishop of Ciudad Juárez (Mexico); and the Reverend Monsignor Aldo GIORDANO, Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the Council of Europe. Ecclesial cooperation is vital for bringing about true specific pastoral care for migrants and refugees.

Tomorrow afternoon and the morning of Wednesday 11 November will be dedicated to dialogue and collaboration, in the context of the theme of our Congress.

Tomorrow afternoon's speaker, H.E. Msgr Josef VOSS, President of Germany's Episcopal Commission for Migrants, will illustrate “A pastoral approach towards more stable integration of migrants and refugees in the context of ecumenical, interreligious and intercultural dialogue”. We will then have the pleasure of listening to our fellow delegates from the Ecumenical Council of Churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran World Federation.

On Wednesday morning there will be two speeches, the first of which will illustrate “The urgency and the challenges of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation regarding the current situation of migrants and refugees (the experience of ecclesial movements)”, and will be given by Dr Daniela POMPEI from the Saint Egidio Community. This will be followed by “Cooperation between ecclesial and civil institutions to improve the lives of migrants and refugees”, a speech given by Dr John KLINK, President of the International Catholic Migration Commission.

Finally, Wednesday afternoon will see a round table on the theme: “The pastoral care of migrants and refugees in prisons and detention centres”. The speakers on this difficult apostleship will include: H.E. Msgr John Charles WESTER, Bishop of Salt Lake City (United States of America); H.E. Msgr Giovanni Innocenzo MARTINELLI, OFM, Vicar Apostolic of Tripoli (Libya) and the Reverend Monsignor Giorgio CANIATO, Inspector General of the Chaplaincy of the Department of Penitentiary Administration and the Department of Juvenile Justice, Italy.

Wednesday evening will be a great boon for us all: a Peoples Festival offered to us by the Migrantes Foundation of the Italian Bishops' Conference. We will have a good festival praising God and a resting moment after our efforts during this meeting!

On the morning of Thursday 12 November our Congress will conclude with the presentation of the Final Document, together with propositions and suggestions for future action plans.

It only remains for me to wish you an excellent meeting, but first of all have a good Papal Audience!


[1] Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, 1: AAS XCVI (2004), 762.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, Vatican Publishing House, Vatican City 2009.

[3] This was fully dealt with at the First and Second World Forums on Migration and Development, held respectively in Brussels on 9-11 July 2007, and Manila on 28-29 October 2008. See my “Speeches”, given at both meetings, in People on the Move, respectively Vol. XXXIX, no. 104, August 2007, pp. 309-310, and Vol. XL, no. 108, December 2008, pp. 299-300. I am just back from the III World Forum, in Athens.

[4] Cf. International Organisation for Migration, World Migration Report 2008, Geneva 2008, Textbook 1.5, pp. 36-38.

[5] cf. ibid., pp. 61-64.

[6] Cf. Agostino Marchetto, “Integration of Young People with a Migration Background. Christian Motives and Contribution of the Churches”: People on the Move XL, no. 108, December 2008, pp. 139-148.

[7] Id., “Religion, Migration and National Identity”: People on the Move XLI, no. 109, April 2009, pp. 29-35.

[8] Pope John Paul II, "Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2005", no. 1: People on the Move, XXXVI, N. 96, December 2004, pp. 223-224.

[9] cf. ibid.

[10] Cf. Stefano Zamagni, “I Rifugiati dai Paesi a maggioranza islamica”, Proceedings of the 17th Plenary Session of our Pontifical Council, 15-17 May 2006: People on the Move XXXVIII, no. 101 Supplement, August 2006, pp. 233-237.

[11] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens, no. 6: AAS LXXIII (1981) 589-590.