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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 II: July 23, 2002 - October 26, 2002)


Tuesday, 23 July 2002

Mr Coordinator, 


 There is a growing awareness among States that, today, questions of conflict prevention, peaceful resolution of disputes, peacekeeping and post conflict peace-building and reconstruction must be addressed within a broad understanding of international activity and responsibility. This was made explicit particularly in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which placed fighting poverty at the centre of an integrated and multilateral approach to development and peace. 

The Millennium Declaration resolved "to spare no effort to ensure that children and all civilian populations that suffer disproportionately the consequences of... armed conflicts are given every assistance and protection". It resolved to expand and strengthen the protection of such civilians "in conformity with international humanitarian law". 

Governments, international financial institutions, humanitarian organizations and civil society recognise today that conflict is a major contributory cause to poverty. They recognise that, in many countries, post conflict reconstruction is the first prerequisite of the fight against poverty. Humanitarian law must continually update itself to respond to new human development paradigms and progress in human rights reflection. 

Where the fight against poverty is understood in terms of enhancing human capacity and empowering people, then weapons related factors which hinder individuals and communities, after conflict, from rapidly returning in safety and dignity to the normal family, economic and social activity, may well approximate to excessive injury and suffering....



11 August 2002

1. ...

When will it be understood that the coexistence of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples cannot be brought about by arms? For it is neither attacks, nor walls that separate, nor even retaliation that will ever lead to a just solution of the continuing conflict. 

...2. From 1967 till today, unspeakable sufferings have followed one upon another in a frightening manner: the suffering of the Palestinians, driven out of their land and forced, in recent times, into a state of permanent siege, becoming as it were the object of a collective punishment; the suffering of the Israeli population, who live in the daily terror of being targets of anonymous assailants.

3. Faced with this humanitarian tragedy, which does not seem to show any signs of hope, no one can remain indifferent. That is why, once again, I appeal to the Israeli and Palestinian political leadership to set out anew on the path of sincere negotiation. I ask the international community to work with greater resolve in being present in the area, offering its mediation in order to create the conditions for a fruitful dialogue that will speed the process towards peace. I call on Christians of every part of the world to join in my fervent and trusting prayer. Mary, Queen of Peace, grant that the cries of those who suffer and die in the Holy Land will finally be heard. 




Saturday, 31 August 2002

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, 


5. ...In your various plans for pastoral activity, I have observed the emphasis you give to young people, the family, catechesis, vocations and the media. I hope you will also continue your concern to offer adequate direction to the pastoral care of children. 

...It is also necessary to consider the phenomenon of immigration, which has been familiar to you for a few generations. Today it has taken on a growing momentum in the border regions, where Latin American peoples come to seek in your country a better living standard. I thank God for your constant concern to keep up regular contact with the Bishops' Conferences of the neighbouring countries in order gradually to coordinate your pastoral activities, and to welcome with generosity and dignity those in need. I also entrust to the activity of Pastors and priests the mission of being vigilant to the overall negative influence of the sects, on either side of your frontier. The kind and hospitable character of your people must not be drawn by a conformist and utilitarian tendency to fall back on short-term solutions. One can never say too often that "pastoral policies will have to be revised, so that each particular Church can offer the faithful more personalized religious care, strengthen the structures of communion and mission, make the most of the evangelizing possibilities of a purified popular religiosity, and thus give new life to the faith of all Catholics in Jesus Christ" (Ecclesia in America, n. 73). ...





2 September 2002

Mr. President, 


Taking into account that any sound and lasting agreement for achieving sustainable development must recognize and safeguard the dignity and rights of the human person, the continued promotion of the centrality of the human being in the discussion of sustainable development is a core interest of the Holy See and the main reason of its presence at this important World Summit. The promotion of human dignity is linked to the right to development and to the right to a healthy environment, since these rights highlight the dynamics of the relationship between the individual and society; this stimulates the responsibility of the individual towards self, towards others, towards creation, and ultimately towards God. 

In this regard, the Holy See continues to affirm its serious concern for the three interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development - the economic, the social and the environmental - and their contribution to true integral human development and the promotion of the well-being of all people. Development is first and foremost a question of people.


It must be recognized that juridical, economic and technical measures are not sufficient to solve the problems that hamper sustainable development. Many of these problems are issues of an ethical and moral nature, which call for a profound change in modern civilization's typical patterns of consumption and production, particularly in the industrialized countries. 


The seams of human society are today torn by the lack of response to basic human needs of millions of our brothers and sisters. No portion or member of the human family should be reduced to live in sub-human social, economic, environmental, cultural or political conditions. Extreme poverty is perhaps the most pervasive and paralyzing violation of human rights in our world. In keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, the poor must be heard on issues and be at the center of local, national and international programs for sustainable development. Persons living in poverty must be considered as participating subjects. Individuals and peoples cannot become tools but must be the protagonists of their future,9 able to be the "agents of their own development" and, "in their specific economic and political circumstances, to exercise the creativity which is characteristic of the human person and on which the wealth of nations too is dependent".10 Any initiative contributing to the development and ennoblement of people needs to address both the human being's spiritual and material existence.


Another high priority in sustainable development is rural development. Rural areas account for more than half of the world's population and the poor living in these areas often lack access to basic social services. The rise of modern urbanization sometimes has been the cause for the rural population to be forgotten. But it is precisely the high levels of poverty in rural areas that have contributed substantially as a push factor to migration of populations to urban areas....



7 September 2002

Your Excellency,


 In the wake of the terrorist attacks of last September, the international community has recognized the urgent need to combat the phenomenon of well-financed and highly-organized international terrorism, which represents a formidable and immediate threat to world peace. Spawned by hatred, isolation and distrust, terrorism adds violence to violence in a tragic spiral that embitters and poisons successive generations. Ultimately, "terrorism is built on contempt for human life. For this reason, not only does it commit intolerable crimes, but, because it resorts to terror as a political and military means, it is itself a true crime against humanity" (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, No. 4).

As an essential part of its fight against all forms of terrorism, the international community is called to undertake new and creative political, diplomatic and economic initiatives aimed at relieving the scandalous situations of gross injustice, oppression and marginalization which continue to oppress countless members of the human family. History in fact shows that the recruitment of terrorists is more easily achieved in areas where human rights are trampled upon and where injustice is a part of daily life. This is not to say that the inequalities and abuses existing in the world excuse acts of terrorism: there can never of course be any justification for violence and disregard for human life. However, the international community can no longer overlook the underlying causes that lead young people especially to despair of humanity, of life itself and of the future, and to fall prey to the temptations of violence, hatred and a desire for revenge at any cost.


The building of such a global culture of solidarity is perhaps the greatest moral task confronting humanity today. It presents a particular spiritual and cultural challenge to the developed countries of the West, where the principles and values of the Christian religion have long been woven into the very fabric of society but are now being called into question by alternative cultural models grounded in an exaggerated individualism which all too often leads to indifferentism, hedonism, consumerism and a practical materialism that can erode and even subvert the foundations of social life....



9 September 2002

Mr. Chairman,


3. A specific portion of our meeting will be devoted to the scourge of trafficking in human persons.

The Holy See highly appreciates and supports the attention that now and in the coming months – also in other fora – will be given to this reality, which has been defined as the slavery of the 21st century.

Within the international community this is indeed a burning issue. Nonetheless it is necessary for us all to confront the uncomfortable fact that so far States have not succeeded in eliminating this trade for profit. This makes it especially important not to give in to any demagogy which would hamper the determination of new remedies and the implementation of the existing ones.

Numerous Catholic Organizations are actively involved in countering this scourge with programs of assistance and rehabilitation, with health centres and with legal and psychological assistance, with temporary accommodations, with programs of job education and with support in finding decent employment.

4. As we know, the question of trafficking must always be taken into consideration together with that of migration, which today is becoming an ever more sensitive issue for many countries.

Migration is to be seen in the context of globalisation, which – in conjunction with poverty – inevitably stimulates migration and will probably do so all the more.

Today, migration should be still regarded in terms of opportunity: opportunity for the migrant, opportunity for the host country.

In general terms, we should emphasize that the regulation of migration with projects respectful of the genuine good of both migrants and the host population would benefit all parties concerned. The human rights and fundamental freedoms of all parties involved should obviously be guaranteed, as well as the international protection of those who are entitled to receive it. Furthermore, it could be opportune to take into account economic and social factors, as well as the specific cultural identity of the host population and the need for peaceful coexistence in its territory....



11 September 2002

Give young people hope for the future


1...One year after 11 September 2001, we state again that no situation of injustice, no sentiment of frustration, no philosophy or religion can justify such a deadly assault. Every human person has the right to respect for his own life and dignity which are inviolable goods. God says it, international law sanctions it, the human conscience proclaims it, civil coexistence demands it.

2. Terrorism is and will always be a manifestation of inhuman ferocity which, as such, will never be able to resolve the conflicts between human persons. Destruction, armed violence, and war are choices that sow and generate only hatred and death. Reason and love are the only valid means for overcoming and resolving the disputes between persons and peoples.

However, an agreed upon and resolute effort is necessary and urgent to advance new political and economic initiatives that are capable of resolving the scandalous situations of injustice and oppression that continue to afflict a great many of the members of the human family, creating conditions that favour the uncontrollable explosion of rancour. When fundamental rights are violated, it is easy to fall prey to the temptations of hatred and violence. A global culture of solidarity has to be built that will give young people hope for the future. ...



Thursday, 1 October 2002 

The institutions of asylum and international protection are among of the principal acquisitions of contemporary juridical culture. They have provided a veritable lifeline for millions of persons over the past years, in every continent. They must not be weakened. 

As circumstances change, and as it becomes necessary to ensure that the mechanisms of protection are updated and remain relevant to evolving conditions, the significance of the basic institutions of asylum and international protection must remain not just intact, but rather be enhanced.

The Holy See recognizes the importance of the global consultations which have been taking place over the past years, culminating in the adoption of the Agenda for Protection. The aim of the Agenda for Protection, which is not in itself a legally binding document, is not to replace the fundamental international legal instruments concerning protection and asylum. It is to ensure that these are adequately applied in the changing situations of the day. The Agenda must become a starting point for an ongoing process of collaboration to enthusiastically ensure that the institution of protection truly responds to the changing needs and situations of our time, placing the concrete needs of refugee people at its centre.

The concept of cooperation is at the heart of the Agenda for Protection. The process of implementing the Agenda will inevitably involve the establishing of new partnerships of cooperation and burden sharing. Within this process, of course, the Executive Committee must maintain its particular role.

The Delegation of the Holy See would like to address two specific questions which require urgent attention for the future:

1) The "asylum-migration" nexus must be addressed urgently and systematically. The globalization of the economy requires, and will inevitably lead to, a new understanding of the place of migration. At a time when there is a growing recognition of the fact that intelligent, more open and transparent migration policies can be in the interest of both developed and developing economies, there is often a lack of the corresponding political courage needed to address the question. Where balanced migration policies are not in place, the protection of the institution of asylum will inevitably be at risk, either through the abuse of asylum procedures–including by unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers of persons - or through unnecessarily restrictive interpretation of international norms by governments. The lack of intelligent immigration policies only increases the likelihood of the smuggling and trafficking of persons, while vast resources are diverted to counteracting the movement of those who might in fact bring a useful contribution to the economic and social progress in the host country.

2) Another question which requires urgent attention is that of the protection of children. Refugee children, including adolescents under 18, constitute about 45% of all refugees. They are among the most vulnerable of the refugee population. The serious allegations regarding sexual exploitation of refugee children clearly point to the need of a continual review of the policies of UNHCR and all its partners in this area. We appreciate the first steps that have been taken in this regard, but much remains still to be done.

New norms and new codes of practice, however necessary, will not on their own provide an answer to this challenge. A fundamental cultural change is necessary. Sexual exploitation in emergency situations is not inevitable. Sexual violence is not an inevitable dimension of conflict. The community of nations affirms today with renewed vigour that the systematic use of sexual violence in armed conflict is a crime against humanity. It must affirm with equal clarity that sexual exploitation, of children or adults, by humanitarian operators remains equally unacceptable.

An overarching dimension of any United Nations presence today must be to witness to standards, in this case to the accepted international high standards of professional behaviour, as well as to international human rights and justice standards. This is especially appropriate when working with persons who have, in the past, been the victims of disregard for human dignity, human rights and the rule of law. In a situation in which the power relationship between the humanitarian operator and the refugee is so disproportionate, international humanitarian workers must be bound by nothing less than the highest standards of professional behaviour.

Refugees are not simply clients of humanitarian workers. They are people who have been offended in their dignity, often at an early age. The aim of international protection is to provide them the space within which to recover their sense of dignity and worth.

In working with refugee children, particular attention should be given to the family. Families in refugee situations must have access to the minimum financial and logistical support needed for them to function as families. Provision of the highest achievable standards of education should be a fundamental dimension of protection. Strengthening the capacity of families, while they are living in refugee circumstances, to carry out their educative and caring responsibilities will enable them to offer their children a natural environment of care and protection. It will also assist those families later to bring their contribution of building up a strong society on their return to normal life.






3 October 2002

 The Note on Protection stresses that the need to address the root causes of displacement is widely recognized but that implementing initiatives of conflict resolution or of fostering human rights and democratic governance has proven complex, because many of the actors involved come from outside the humanitarian realm.

 The causes of conflict today are indeed extremely complex, due to a web of interconnected economic and political interests, as well as to the difficulties in forging effective alliances in favour of the sustainable development of conflict prone regions

 We must find new forms of interaction between UNHCR and other development partners to ensure that refugees, who already suffer marginalisation in their own home, do not become the most marginal when it comes to realising the goals of the Millennium Declaration. We must coherently address the gap between relief and development. 

 Protection should not just look on persons as the objects of our concern for today. Refugees must be considered as the active subjects of their own future. Regimes of protection must be so designed that they enhance human potential to the fullest degree possible. Refugees must be empowered to be protagonists of their own future security. Enhancing human potential requires greater investment in education and health care and in fostering the capacities of refugees for future economic activity and participation in social life.

 Such investment in people must also go hand in hand with the creation of a more favourable environment for development in post-conflict situations. In this context the Holy See hopes that already existing alliances, such as AGAMI can be broadened with a strong human development and human rights focus, and involve a wide range of agencies especially the World Bank, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the ILO and the IOM.



10 October 2002 

Mr Ambassador, 


 2. ...While the continent continues to suffer acutely from the various conflicts that wound it mortally, I launch a new and insistent appeal that all Africans may be mobilized to work hand in hand, as brothers and sisters, to make their lands livable places where each person may have his share of the national resources. It is important that those in charge of the destinies of African nations persevere in creating conditions for an integral development, marked by solidarity that will actively serve the cause of peace. 

Many African countries continue to suffer situations of endemic poverty that disfigure people and make them incapable of providing for their needs and the needs of those for whom they are responsible, and jeopardizing in the long run the future of the national communities. I therefore invite the legitimate authorities of the country to pursue the fight against all forms of poverty, that ruin the hopes of individuals and peoples and breed violence and extremism of every kind. In this spirit, I also want to appeal for new vitality in international cooperation, which must be rethought in terms of a culture of solidarity to fight against the negative effects linked to globalization

.... To promote this ethic of solidarity and human advancement more effectively, I keenly hope that the international community, especially by rethinking the debt of the African countries, will pursue its efforts to support local initiatives that involve the population, by guiding the realization of projects by qualified persons who will help train the primary agents and can verify that the goals have really been achieved....



For a commitment to overcome all racism, xenophobia
and exaggerated nationalism

1. Migration has become a widespread phenomenon in the modern-day world and involves all nations, either as countries of departure, of transit or of arrival. It affects millions of human beings, and presents a challenge that the pilgrim Church, at the service of the whole human family, cannot fail to take up and meet in the Gospel spirit of universal charity. This year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees should be a time of special prayer for the needs of all who, for whatever reason, are far from home and family; it should be a day of serious reflection on the duties of Catholics towards these brothers and sisters. 

Among those particularly affected are the most vulnerable of foreigners: undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, those displaced by continuing violent conflicts in many parts of the world, and the victims – mostly women and children – of the terrible crime of human trafficking. Even in the recent past we have witnessed tragic instances of forced movements of peoples for ethnic and nationalistic pretensions, which have added untold misery to the lives of targeted groups. At the root of these situations there are sinful intentions and actions that go contrary to the Gospel and constitute a call to Christians everywhere to overcome evil with good.

2. Membership in the Catholic community is not determined by nationality, or by social or ethnic origin, but essentially by faith in Jesus Christ and Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity. The “cosmopolitan” make-up of the People of God is visible today in practically every particular Church because migration has transformed even small and formerly isolated communities into pluralist and inter-cultural realities. Places that until recently rarely saw an outsider are now home to people from different parts of the world. 


The Church understands that restricting membership of a local community on the basis of ethnic or other external characteristics would be an impoverishment for all concerned, and would contradict the basic right of the baptized to worship and take part in the life of the community. Moreover, if newcomers feel unwelcome as they approach a particular parish community because they do not speak the local language or follow local customs, they easily become “lost sheep”. The loss of such “little ones” for reasons of even latent discrimination should be a cause of grave concern to pastors and faithful alike.

3. This takes us back to a subject which I have often mentioned in my Messages for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, namely, the Christian duty to welcome whoever comes knocking out of need. Such openness builds up vibrant Christian communities, enriched by the Spirit with the gifts brought to them by new disciples from other cultures. This basic expression of evangelical love is likewise the inspiration of countless programmes of solidarity towards migrants and refugees in all parts of the world. 


Often, solidarity does not come easily. It requires training and a turning away from attitudes of closure, which in many societies today have become more subtle and penetrating. To deal with this phenomenon, the Church possesses vast educational and formative resources at all levels. I therefore appeal to parents and teachers to combat racism and xenophobia by inculcating positive attitudes based on Catholic social doctrine. 

4. Being ever more deeply rooted in Christ, Christians must struggle to overcome any tendency to turn in on themselves, and learn to discern in people of other cultures the handiwork of God. Only genuine evangelical love will be strong enough to help communities pass from mere tolerance of others to real respect for their differences. 


Understandably, as I urge Catholics to excel in the spirit of solidarity towards newcomers among them, I also invite the immigrants to recognize the duty to honour the countries which receive them and to respect the laws, culture and traditions of the people who have welcomed them. Only in this way will social harmony prevail. 

The path to true acceptance of immigrants in their cultural diversity is actually a difficult one, in some cases a real Way of the Cross


 5. It hardly needs to be said that mixed cultural communities offer unique opportunities to deepen the gift of unity with other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities. Many of them in fact have worked within their own communities and with the Catholic Church to form societies in which the cultures of migrants and their special gifts are sincerely appreciated, and in which manifestations of racism, xenophobia and exaggerated nationalism are prophetically opposed.


May God’s abundant blessings be with those who welcome the stranger in Christ’s name.

From the Vatican, 24 October 2002




26 October 2002

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, 


 2. ...In the past ten years there has been an effort to combat illiteracy, endemic disease and the rate of infant mortality; coexistence with poverty and chronic wretchedness, largely due to immigration from rural areas to the city; the problems of the fair distribution of land and attention to the people who work on the sea, in addition to a wide range of other problems, without forgetting drought and flooding, two sides of the same coin. All these things are constant causes of concern for the local authorities, let alone the pastoral planning of the different dioceses. 


8. ...As we know, Brazilian youth are a feature of the country's life not only because of their number, but also because of the influence on social life that they exercise. In addition to the thorny problem of caring for minors deprived of their dignity and innocence, there are problems linked to their insertion into the job market, the increase in juvenile delinquency, which is largely conditioned by the situation of endemic poverty and the lack of a family stability and the harmful impact of some of the media, internal migration in the quest for better living conditions in the larger cities and the worrying involvement of young people in the world of drugs and prostitution, are all factors that continue to be of primary concern.