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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move - N° 87, December 2001


An open letter from the new Secretary

S.E. Mons. Agostino MARCHETTO
Tit. Archbishop of Ecija

Dear friends associated in various ways with our Pontifical Council,

Last summer, in Lignano Sabbiadoro (Italy), the parish priest invited me to celebrate Holy Mass for fair ground people, right in their own environment, and for me it was “a first time”. What I did not know at that time was that a sign of the future was given to me, just like my participation, a short time ago, in the 8th International Workshop on “Culture, Health, Migration” organized by “San Gallicano”. I made a good impression there with a talk inspired by an article written by Angelo Negrini, entitled “The Migrant amidst Similarity and Diversity of Cultures,” published in this year’s September issue of “People on the move”.

Here I am, in fact, presently named as Secretary of this Pontifical Council, first collaborator of H.E. Msgr. Stephen F. Hamao – to whom go my wishes for a good and restored health - in the section of the Roman Curia that incarnates the papal solicitude for the “people on the move.”

In spite of this, I am keeping my mission as Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Roman pole of the United Nations family (FAO, IFAD, WFP), which deals with agriculture and nutrition and thus with the hungry and undernourished. In many ways, they are identified with migrants, exiles and refugees. Therefore, there is no incompatibility with regards to the object-subject of my concern now and, I think, of the very recent commitment of WFP (World Food Programme) for displaced Afghans.

Looking at things carefully, although I come from the diplomatic service of the Holy See, including residence in African lands for twenty years, I had more than a few occasions of getting involved in the field of the very concern, in terms of studies and pastoral care, of this Pontifical Council. Looking at the past, in effect, I see my ministry among the Italians, who were in Zambia at the end of the 1960Â’s for large enterprises (I was really their chaplain, aside from being Secretary of the Nunciature), in Algeria (by reawakening the pastoral care for the non-French who were temporarily there to work and through frequent visits to the work camps), and in Portugal. I think of displaced people when Mozambique was in war, the refugees in Tanzania, for example, and the attention given to seafarers in Madagascar (remember the renowned Fr. LeGall?).

I cannot forget the pilgrims in many shrines in the world, without forgetting (and how could I?) my Vicenza and the Marian Shrine of Monte Berico, which is especially dear to me. In this regard, the historian that is in me thinks of the interest that I have always had for the “history of piety,” and, in Italy, the great Rev. Giuseppe De Luca comes to my mind (see p. 85).

Looking at the tourists, I should say that I was somehow a tourist myself, trying to carry along my being a priest among those who “went” to the sea or the mountains, through the cities and the farms. In this regard, I remember perhaps the most beautiful adventure I had: the ascent to Mt. Kilimanjaro for three days, and afterwards visiting Serengheti and the Ngorongoro Crater, a combination of tourism, nature and piety (I left some pontifical medals up there).

At this point, Belarus', country of my last mission (I was the first resident Nuncio there), would ask me: “Are you forgetting us?”. I think of those who were there, travelling towards the “European freedom”, who came from the East and needed support and aid, in illegal situations, without a “refugee” status. And how many are there among true refugees who are not “recognized” as such!

I am recalling all this for you and for myself to encourage us to say that some “logic,” aside from filial obedience to the Holy Father and to my Superiors, can be traced in this nomination published today. And this thought would find further strength if together we humbly consider that Pastoral Care has always been my “passion” and characteristic and also practised, I can say generously, in all the years of my life. A confirmation of this is my enrolment at the Pastoral Institute of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, in the 1960s, in spite of the difficulty of combining it with my studies in Theology and Canon Law in the same University and with the courses in diplomacy at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

I believe one more piece is needed to complete the mosaic, namely the serious illness that struck me five years ago, and about which I wrote as a way to help my brothers and sisters who are sick. It is in a little booklet that is entitled Nel tunnel della speranza. La chemioterapia antitumorale (In the Tunnel of hope. Anti-tumour Chemotherapy, Ed. Camilliane, Turin, 2nd edition, 2000). The illness is over, the doctors say, total remission.

Should I beg your pardon for having talked so much about myself at the beginning of this new task of mine? I do not think so – but if it is necessary, I would like to do so now – because knowing one another is important when there is a common commitment before us, when we have to walk some way together, in the service of pastoral care, of the great cause of the Gospel and human promotion.

I spoke of myself because I do not know you yet and therefore up to now I am unable to speak of you. But now, you must come and see us and teach us to grow in knowing you. Begin, or continue, the dialogue with this Pontifical Council! Write us, input your e-mail and send us your suggestions, news about your activities, tell us in what and how we can help you, send us ideas, thoughts (how important these are, because, in the end, they move people and even continents!) and also a bit of your heart and of your faith-hope-charity. Thank you!

With a well-wishing, cordial and prayerful greeting to all, I would like to invite you to gratefully raise together our spirit to God and to His Christ, in the Holy Spirit, contemplating Mary with filial love, affectionately looking at the Church and the Universal Pastor, John Paul II, who carries the “sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum” (the solicitude of all the Churches). In giving a new Secretary to this Pontifical Council, he renews the sign of his communion with it and manifests the affection in his heart, in the renewed encouragement to go out into the deep, more and more into the deep: “Duc in altum!” (Novo millennio ineunte, no. 58), and this does not involve only Apostolatus Maris!

Roma, 6 November 2001



S.E. Mons.Agostino Marchetto, Nunzio Apostolico, Osservatore Permanente della Santa Sede presso le Organizzazioni e gli Organismi delle Nazioni Unite per lÂ’Alimentazione e lÂ’Agricoltura (F.A.O., I.F.A.D. e P.A.M.).

Nato a Vicenza (Italia) il 28 agosto 1940.

Ordinato presbitero il 28 giugno 1964.

Laureato in Diritto Canonico, Licenziato in Sacra Teologia, Diplomato in Pastorale e alla Pontificia Accademia Ecclesiastica.

Nomitato Pro-Nunzio Apostolico in Madagascar e Delegato Apostolico per le Isole Comore, Mayotte e la Réunion il 1 agosto 1985, ricevendo lÂ’ordinazione episcopale il 1 novembre successivo, con lÂ’elevazione ad Arcivescovo titolare di Ecija (Andalusia, Spagna).

Entrato nel servizio diplomatico della Santa Sede nel 1968.

Ha prestato successivamente la propria opera nelle Rappresentanze Pontificie di Zambia e Malawi, a Cuba, nel Maghreb (Algeria, Marocco, Tunisia e Jamahiria Libica), in Portogallo, nello Zimbabwe e nel Mozambico.

Nominato Pro-Nunzio Apostolico in Tanzania il 7 dicembre 1990.

Nominato primo Nunzio Apostolico residente in BelarusÂ’, il 18 maggio 1994.

Il 16 aprile del 1996 passò al servizio della Segreteria di Stato, nella I sua Sezione, in qualità di “Nunzio Apostolico a disposizione”.

In tale ruolo, come Inviato Speciale, trascorse un qualche tempo a Tirana (Albania), al momento della grave crisi di quel Paese, nel 1997.

Per lÂ’anniversario, poi, della visita del Papa Giovanni Paolo II a Sarajevo fu pure colà, nel 1998, come Inviato Speciale.

Nominato lÂ’8 luglio 1999 Osservatore Permanente della Santa Sede presso le Organizzazioni e gli Organismi delle Nazioni Unite per lÂ’Alimentazione e lÂ’Agricoltura (F.A.O., I.F.A.D., P.AM.).

Parla correntemente lÂ’Italiano, il Francese, lÂ’Inglese, lo Spagnolo, il Portoghese e il Tedesco.

Collabora al quotidiano della Santa Sede “L’Osservatore Romano” e alla rivista “Apollinaris”, come esperto in storia e diritto canonico. E’ membro della “Accademia Olimpica” che ha sede a Vicenza.