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   Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Extracts from speeches by the Holy Father and positions taken by the Holy See concerning Refugees and
Internally Displaced Persons

Overview of the period 
January 1, 2002 - January 31, 2003

(Part I: February 8, 2002 - June 19, 2002)


Friday, 8 February 2002

Mr. Ambassador,


True progress cannot but take proper account of a people’s cultural and spiritual needs and traditions. In this sense policies and programs stand or fall depending on whether or not they favor integral human development. Thus the increasing globalization of the economy, with its leveling of cultural differences, is not necessarily and in every case a solution to real needs. In fact, it can aggravate the imbalances already evident in the relations between those who benefit from the world’s growing capacity to produce wealth and those who are left at the margin of progress. The great moral challenge facing nations and the international community is to combine development with solidarity — a genuine sharing of benefits — in order to overcome both dehumanizing underdevelopment and the "overdevelopment" which considers people as mere economic units in a consumer system (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 32). Development therefore is never a merely technical or economic question; it is fundamentally a human and moral question. It requires an enhanced sense of moral commitment on the part of those who serve the common good.



Monday, 11 March 2002 

Mr Ambassador, 


5. One of the most complex and dramatic consequences of the economic crisis in Ecuador is the emigration of so many of its citizens to other countries, that has grown in recent years. The uncertainty of those who leave in search of better living conditions is combined with the pain of being uprooted from their culture, the risk of confusion in religious practice with the absence of the usual ways it is lived and, in many cases, by the painful break-up of the family nucleus, not to mention the grim consequences of illegal or clandestine situations. 

Although she knows that "in such a complex issue there are no "magic' formulas" (Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2001, n. 13), the Church is not limited to repeating the fundamental ethical principle that "immigrants must always be treated with the respect due to the dignity of every human person" (ibid.), but mobilizes all her resources to meet their needs in the best way possible. Indeed, the Churches and other Catholic institutions are frequently a major place to gather, where they can celebrate their feasts, keep alive their national identity; where they can find effective support, perhaps their only support, in defending their rights or resolving unbearable situations. 

However, the action that takes place in the countries of destination must be accompanied by careful attention to this problem in the country of origin of the immigrants; it is here that they conceive most of their plans. The causes that drive so many people to leave their country must be combatted, and when the phenomenon cannot be avoided entirely, it is essential to prevent every kind of illegality, corruption or ruthless crime that so often ensnare immigrants in a brutal, modern slave trade. On the other hand, Ecuadoreans who live abroad should not feel forgotten by their country.




Monterrey, Mexico
Thursday, 21 March 2002


Mr. President:

Too many families in today’s world are forced to be concerned with survival and do not have the luxury of participating as actors in their development; too many people are forced to migrate, too many people continue to be burdened by absolute poverty and live in countries where debt burdens make it impossible to gain access to basic social services and social safeguards. In this perspective, financing for development must touch all aspects of life, the individual, the family, the community and the world. ...

More than one hundred years ago, Pope Leo XIII issued the first great social Encyclical Letter,Rerum Novarum. In it, the Pope stated the ideas that would become an inspiration for social policy for years to come:

"Every program geared to increased production must have no other end in view than to serve the human person, namely: to lessen inequalities, to remove discrimination, to free men from the bonds of servitude and to enable them to improve their condition in the temporal order, achieve moral development, and perfect their spiritual endowments. When we speak of development, care must be given both to social progress and economic growth."

In 1967, in his Encyclical Letter,Populorum Progressio,Pope Paul VI reinforced the position of the Church regarding the connection between peace and social and economic development: "Therefore, when we combat misery, and struggle against injustice we are providing not only for man's prosperity but also for his spiritual and moral development and are therefore promoting the welfare of the whole human race."

For this reason, the Holy See continues to involve itself in the on-going process of the development of peoples. Twenty years after Populorum Progressio, Pope John Paul II addressed the work that had been accomplished in the recent past and looked forward to the work that would ensue, including the work of this Conference:


" one must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest."

 The Holy See strongly believes that any effort in favor of development must analyze the moral ramifications of economic activity and its financing in light of a comprehensive vision of the human person. This is an absolutely essential interplay, a moral imperative, which has all too often been neglected in the dialogue over the ethics of economic life. A true concern for the development of peoples cannot afford to be reductionistic, but must respect the genuine claims of both economics and morality. Human dignity must be the central value for the financing of development. Such an authentic concern must prize the close relationship between the centrality of the human person and economic activity, stressing the subjective character of human work and its place in human creativity. 

 ...the Family of Nations cannot allow one more day to pass wherein a real attempt to meet goals and make measurable progress toward the eradication of poverty are not pursued with all of the energy and resolve that can muster.



22 March 2002

Mr Chairman,


The "moral bankruptcy of racial prejudice and ethnic animosity", to use the words of Pope John Paul II, can only be definitively eliminated through a conscious effort of solidarity and a recognition of the essential unity of the one human family. Terrorism is an affront to human dignity and must be fought vigorously. A fight against terrorism, however, is by definition a fight in favour of the rule of law, in favour of relationships between persons and nations that are based on respect for the dignity of every human person and their fundamental human rights.


The Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance set out to design a common roadmap for reading the contemporary situation of racism and for indicating the road towards a future of more fruitful interaction and coexistence. The road to Durban was not an easy one and the map that has resulted may not be the complete path for the future that we would have desired.

But, together with the General Assembly resolutions, the results of the Durban Conference offer us sufficient material to move forward, in broad consensus, in the fight against racism. There is an evident awareness in so many parts of the world that we must foster a new spirit of dialogue and coexistence. Unless racism is addressed rapidly and at its roots, then its consequences dramatically eat away at the fabric of human cooperation.

Regarding the follow up to the Durban Conference, the Holy See would like to draw attention to some specific themes which its retains particularly important and topical.

Each country should set in place appropriate national structures to address the questions of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Where structures already exist, their effectiveness should be verified and appropriate improvements made. Special attention should be given to situations where, despite best efforts, racist sentiments may still prevent the vulnerable from fully exercising their human rights. We must monitor the ability of the police and of the administration of justice to address racist abuse effectively and sensitively. Conscious efforts should be made to ensure that vulnerable groups have full access to basic education, so that they can better realize their complete God-given potential and fully participate in society.

National programmes should be quick to monitor the emergence of new forms of racism. The scientific community should be especially vigilant to ensure that progress in medicine and biotechnology is used for the benefit of the entire human family and never to the disadvantage of the vulnerable or with latent racist intent. "The temptation of eugenics is still latent, especially if powerful commercial interests dominate it".

Migrants constitute a particularly vulnerable group. "The increased mobility of peoples demands more than ever an openness to others" It is paradoxical that migrants and their families should today be exposed to racial intolerance, even in situations in which it is recognized that they bring an irreplaceable contribution to the economic progress of the countries to which they have moved. A globalized community must develop a positive image of migration. Attempts to utilize anxieties and alarm in the face of migrants as a calculated tool for short-term political advancement should not be accepted.

In transmitting the Assisi Decalogue for Peace to Heads of State and Government, Pope John Paul stressed that today "humanity must chose between love and hatred". Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance belong to those forms of hatred that can be called "ancient and modern". Racist tendencies have so often in history returned to raise their ugly heads. Each generation must say its no to racism and construct its yes "to seek truth, justice, freedom and love, so that every human person may enjoy his inalienable rights, and every people, peace".



10 April 2002

Mr Chairman,

The elimination of poverty has become an overarching dimension of all development policy. Reducing extreme poverty by 50% by the year 2015 is the key goal of the UN Millennium Declaration, from which the other development targets are derived. The reduction of poverty is the focal point of the new strategies of cooperation between the International Financial Institutions and the heavily indebted poorest countries.

The fight against poverty is however above all a moral imperative, especially today due to the scandalous paradox of widespread extreme poverty existing alongside the scientific and social progress capable of eliminating it.

Extreme poverty is perhaps the most pervasive and paralysing form of violation of human rights in our world. The renewed international commitment to fight extreme poverty must thus also have a human rights dimension. As long as scientific progress and social development are not shared equitably by the whole human family, the human rights ethic, centred on equality, will not produce the desired global equity. An ethic of equality must be integrated with an ethic of solidarity. We must build new coalitions of solidarity to ensure that the ethic of equality becomes a reality for all.

The first and most important contribution of a human rights approach to extreme poverty will always be that of focussing on the dignity of each person and recalling that being forced to live in extreme poverty is an offence against human dignity.

We must ensure that such a human rights approach to extreme poverty becomes not just an ethical principle but also an operative one, in the complex context of today’s globalizing world, within which the point of departure of different countries and economies is so different. In this context, the emphasis on identifying best practices seems a useful road to follow.

The Holy See would stress some underlying principles that should inspire the human rights approach to poverty:

A human rights approach must always focus on the person living in poverty as a fellow human person, endowed with dignity, rights and potential. A human rights approach cannot be satisfied with policies that treat persons living in poverty somehow as a threat, as just potential illegal immigrants or asylum seekers, much less as potential terrorists. We respond to the person living in poverty, not out of fear or out of short term political or self-interest, but in a true spirit of solidarity, fostering the common good of the entire global community.

The person living in poverty must not be considered an object to be managed but as a participating subject. Men and women living in poverty demonstrate that they have great ingenuity. Without such ingenuity they would not survive! The focus of international intervention should be to ensure that the genius of the poor can be focussed not just on surviving but on flourishing, on becoming active participants in society in a way worthy of human dignity, with hope for themselves and their families. They must have the necessary access to formation, to credit and to judicial protection needed to achieve such participation.

A human rights approach to poverty elimination must focus on those forms of discrimination and of stigma of which people living in poverty are the special victims. Extreme poverty multiplies discrimination. Stigma damages the self-esteem of persons living in poverty and thus weakens their capacity to participate. One area where stigma has particular negative effects concerns those suffering from HIV/AIDS. A human rights approach will encourage society to embrace AIDS victims as persons who belong and can contribute.

The current and praiseworthy initiatives in the international fight against poverty - such as debt relief and poverty reduction strategies, the opening of trade barriers and good governance–are destined to remain mere strategies unless flesh is put on them through investment in people and in the social infrastructures that will best facilitate human development. The success of these development strategies requires the strengthening of basic human communities that are the tissue of an active civil society and the guarantee of what Pope John Paul II calls "the subjectivity of society [based on] structures of participation and shared responsibility". Following this path, a human rights approach to extreme poverty will bring its particular contribution of integrating an ethics of equality and an ethics of solidarity.



11 April 2002 

Mr President,
Your Excellency,
Distinguished Academicians,


2. ...The increasing interdependence among people, families, businesses and nations, as well as among economies and markets - known as globalization - has revolutionized the system of social interactions and relations. If it has positive developments, it also harbours disturbing threats, notably the exacerbation of inequalities between the powerful economies and the dependent ones, between those who benefit from new opportunities, and those who are bypassed. This fact invites you to think about the subject of solidarity in a new way.

3. In this connection, with the progressive lengthening of the span of human life, solidarity between generations must receive greater attention, with special care for the weaker members of society, children and the elderly.


In this spirit, it is first of all the responsibility of the political and economic leaders to do everything possible to ensure that globalization will not take place to the detriment of the least favoured and the weakest, widening the gap between rich and poor, between rich nations and poor nations.

5. ... The leaders of civil society fulfil their mission when they seek above all the common good with absolute respect for the dignity of the human person. The importance of the questions our societies have to face and the challenges for the future should stimulate a common will to seek the common good for the harmonious and peaceful development of societies and the well being of all.

Actually, it corresponds to the political sphere to regulate the market, to subject market laws to solidarity, so that individuals and societies are not sacrificed by economic changes at all levels and are protected from the upheavals caused by the deregulation of the market.



24 April 2002

Mr Chairman, 


1. Migration will inevitably become one of the characteristics of a globalised economy. There is therefore an urgent need to intensify and better coordinate reflection on the theme of migration on an international level. Many governments, faced with changing migration challenges, are drawing up new legislative measures. We need a forward-looking human rights framework on migration, which can be used to inspire and to evaluate these national legislations. 

A first precondition for a forward-looking human rights framework is that it be set within a positive image of migration. Legislations that are based primarily on control and repression of abuses - dimensions that, without doubt, are necessary - will never capture the concept of migration as opportunity. Migration is opportunity today, just as it was for some so many individuals and families throughout the past. Migration can bring new opportunity for the individuals who move to a new country, whether for a shorter or a longer period of time. If managed effectively, migration brings new opportunity for the economy of the receiving country, as well as an enrichment of its society. 

Policies that unscrupulously exploit fear of migrants are not worthy of enlightened societies. "From bitter experience", Pope John Paul II has noted, "we know that the fear of difference, especially when it expresses itself in a narrow and exclusive nationalism which denies any rights to "the other', can lead to a true nightmare of violence and terror" (Pope John Paul II: Address to the 50 General Assembly of the United Nations, 9). Such unscrupulous polices are also increasingly counterproductive. Today's globalized economy needs, rather, creative legal frameworks and interstate cooperation, which protect the dignity of migrant workers, and facilitate their free choice to remain or to return to their country of origin. Policies concerning family reunification are important here, as well as effective bilateral or multilateral agreements concerning health care, pensions and social insurance. 

Migrants, on the other hand, who lack legal protection - whether due to inadequacies in the legal framework or to the fact that they are undocumented - are among the most vulnerable categories of people in today's world, The Durban Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance drew special attention to the fact that migrants were very often particularly vulnerable to racism, racist intolerance and violence. 

Within the broad constellaiton of migration, the phenomenon of trafficking of human beings constitutes a sad and serious mark on our contemporary society, taking on the connotations of modern-day slavery. Unscrupulous criminal bands trade and sell human beings along complex modern-day slave routes, at times in unimaginable conditions. On arrival at their final destination other criminal networks that control their employment opportunities often further enslave them. 

Because of their illegal condition they may have no effective means of redress. A positive image of migration requires a much more coherent international attack on such criminal organizations. ...



Tuesday, 30 April 2002

Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy,


2. ...In fact, when proclamation and catechesis succeed in building up the Church as family, the whole of society benefits: harmony between different ethnic groups is given a stronger foundation, ethnocentrism is avoided and reconciliation encouraged, greater solidarity and a sharing of resources among people, and life in society becomes ever more imbued with an awareness of the obligations which flow from respect for the God-given dignity of every human being.


4. Moreover, evangelization and integral human development — the development of every person and of the whole person — are intimately linked.


Precisely because people have been endowed with this extraordinary dignity they should not be reduced to living in sub-human social, economic, cultural or political conditions. This is the theological basis of the struggle for the defence of justice and social peace, for the promotion, liberation and integral human development of all people and of every individual. 

5. This connection between evangelization and human development explains the Church’s presence in the social sphere, in the arena of public and social life. Following the example of her Lord, she exercises her prophetic role on behalf of all people, especially the poor, the suffering, the defenceless; she becomes the voice of the voiceless, insisting that the dignity of the human person should always be at the centre of local, national and international programmes.



Vatican City, 2 May 2002

To Bishop Frédéric Rubwejanga of Kibungo
President of the Association of Central African Bishops' Conferences

1. ...

We cannot forget the long drawn-out tragedy that has continued for so many years to afflict the Great Lakes region of Africa. The continued violence does not just contradict God's plan to gather his dispersed children together in unity. It also denies the vocation of the human person, to whom the Creator entrusted the responsibility for collaborating with his work, by his ongoing action on behalf of unconditional respect for life and for the dignity of every human being. Your countries have paid a heavy price for this spiral of violence and exclusion that engenders great poverty and instability, forcing the migration of entire populations. This logic of hatred and contempt of one's brother has corroded the roots of the human values necessary to build a world of solidarity and establish peaceful and fraternal relations. Today I would like to say again: No more war that destroys the desire to live in peace and fraternal acceptance! May courageous witnesses of new hope for the whole region be raised up in the region of the Great Lakes! 


4. To foster respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and human groups to their integral development, the Catholic Church is called to commit herself alongside all people of good will to usher in a new epoch of peace, justice, and effective solidarity in the Great Lakes region. Since she is an expert in humanity, she must continue to watch over the developments under way, inviting Catholic communities with their pastors, to present boldly the moral and spiritual values necessary for a true change of mentality and heart.




To Archbishop
Jean-Louis Tauran
Secretary for Relations with States

...The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offence against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. Already the Second Vatican Council had pointed to "slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than free and responsible persons" as "infamies" which "poison human society, debase their perpetrators" and constitute "a supreme dishonour to the Creator" (Gaudium et Spes, 27). Such situations are an affront to fundamental values which are shared by all cultures and peoples, values rooted in the very nature of the human person. 

The alarming increase in the trade in human beings is one of the pressing political, social and economic problems associated with the process of globalization; it presents a serious threat to the security of individual nations and a question of international justice which cannot be deferred. 

The present Conference reflects the growing international consensus that the issue of human trafficking must be addressed by promoting effective juridical instruments to halt this iniquitous trade, to punish those who profit from it, and to assist the reintegration of its victims. At the same time, the Conference offers a significant opportunity for sustained reflection on the complex human rights issues raised by trafficking. Who can deny that the victims of this crime are often the poorest and most defenceless members of the human family, the "least" of our brothers and sisters? 

In particular, the sexual exploitation of women and children is a particularly repugnant aspect of this trade, and must be recognized as an intrinsic violation of human dignity and rights. The disturbing tendency to treat prostitution as a business or industry not only contributes to the trade in human beings, but is itself evidence of a growing tendency to detach freedom from the moral law and to reduce the rich mystery of human sexuality to a mere commodity. 

For this reason, I am confident that the Conference, while treating the significant political and juridical issues involved in responding to this modern plague, will also explore the profound ethical questions raised by trafficking in human beings. Attention needs to be paid to the deeper causes of the increased "demand" which fuels the market for human slavery and tolerates the human cost which results. A sound approach to the issues involved will lead also to an examination of the lifestyles and models of behaviour, particularly with regard to the image of women, which generate what has become a veritable industry of sexual exploitation in the developed countries. Similarly, in the less developed countries from which most of the victims come, there is a need to develop more effective mechanisms for the prevention of trafficking in persons and the reintegration of its victims. 


From the Vatican, 15 May 2002.



Mr Minister, 


The current process of globalization, the discrepancies in development between the countries of the region, civil conflicts, natural disasters and the serious economic crises affecting certain American States cause the migration of increasingly large multitudes of peoples. The reaction to the phenomenon of the nations or regions that receive the waves of emigrants may easily be one of intolerance and of social discrimination of minorities, the abuse of the weaker sectors and of a disproportionate defence of the prosperity, employment and other social benefits acquired. 

In this regard we should not lose sight of the fact that any evaluation of this problem must start with the notion of the universal common good that embraces the entire human family and goes beyond any nationalist selfishness. This notion is founded on the universality and indivisibility of the fundamental human rights that derive from the dignity of the human person and have also been appropriately recognized by the American Convention of Human Rights. 

All the men and women of the region should be able to enjoy the legitimate right to emigrate, which includes the right to live a dignified life with their own family, to preserve and develop their own cultural patrimony including their religious heritage, and to be treated in all circumstances as befits their dignity as human beings. The limits of the ethical obligation to accept immigrants cannot be determined merely by the defence of one's own well-being. 

The problems of migration and the protection of minorities must be considered in the global context of inter-American policy. Within this framework, the Holy See cannot cease to recall the need for an effective inter-continental solidarity among the governments and peoples of America so they help to supply generously the material means to solve the great problems affecting vast areas of the continent. A solidarity of this kind would necessarily entail greater sacrifices on the part of the state and the more advanced social groups, leaving aside short-term sectorial interests, to receive the brothers and sisters who arrive in search of better living conditions, and to make it easier for them to remain in their native region. 

The undesirable consequences of massive population displacement could be lessened by an effort throughout the continent to create employment that is dignified, plentiful and stable in the poorest states and geographical areas. In this regard, financial aid with the fewest conditions possible, and the wide-scale opening of markets developed to foster the productivity of the poorest countries are an indispensable complement to legislation on the phenomenon of migration. 

From the Vatican, 2 June 2002



19 June 2002


 World Refugee Day 

John Paul II also reminded the faithful that World Refugee Day will be observed on Thursday 20 June. 

The UN promotes the observance of the day to call attention to the 15 million human beings obliged to cross the borders of countries to flee from persecution and the violation of their fundamental rights. May the leaders of nations listen to the cry that rises from such a tragic exodus of individuals and families and do what is necessary to offer an adequate response to the tragic problems of these brothers and sisters of ours.