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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 97 (Suppl.), April 2005 


Greetings to the Participants 


Cardinal Stephen Fumio HAMAO

President of the Pontifical Council

for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People


We are here at a new stage, the fourth, of our recurring pilgrimage through Europe. Symbolically we are at the point of closing a circle with which, beginning from Mariápócs in Hungary, passing through Pompei in Italy, and through Monserrat in Spain, we have embraced Europe.

This continent, criss-crossed by pilgrim ways or, even better, shaped by them in its history and character, is presented to us today with a “growing need for hope”.[1] This is the diagnosis with which the Holy Father John Paul II takes up the reflections of the Second Synod of  Bishops for Europe, celebrated last year, in the beautiful Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa. The Pope indicates this as “the most crucial” need and calls upon us to “proclaim to Europe the Gospel of hope”.[2]

The changes occurring on the continent, particularly the most recent ones, oblige us to direct our attention to it in a different way, very different at times, to how still many institutions and customs of our countries depict it for us. As the Holy Father says, “The Church cannot shirk the responsibility of making a courageous diagnosis which will make it possible to decide on appropriate therapies. On the ‘old’ continent too, there are vast social and cultural areas which stand in need of a true missio ad gentes”.[3] It will thus be precisely not only a “new” evangelization but, in certain cases, a “first” evangelization.

I believe it can be rightly said that our European Congresses on Pilgrimages and Sanctuaries express the will of all of us to back the appeal of the Holy Father. In concluding our unforgettable days in Montserrat we expressed it this way, affirming in one of the conclusions: “We would like to make the Church’s countenance visible, a body that takes on the joys and sorrows of all and is the sacrament of salvation in Christ Jesus”.[4] To respond now to the needs of Europe, it is necessary, as the Pope points out, that the hope on the countenance of the Church shines with splendour, that its proclamation be the Gospel of hope, that its feast be the celebration of hope, and that its commitment be to serve the Gospel of hope.[5]

Fully engaged in this mission, we want to dedicate our reflection of these days to one of the signs of hope that God has granted us, namely, ecumenism. As John Paul II has pointed out, ecumenism is one “of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit for a continent like Europe which gave rise to tragic divisions between Christians during the second millennium and which still suffers from their consequences”.[6]

We want to be faithful to this gift received, making our own the words of the Holy Father: Â“We may not halt on this journey nor may we turn back! We need to continue this journey in a spirit of trust, so that mutual respect, the search for truth, cooperation in charity and above all the ecumenism of holiness, will not fail, with God's help, to bear fruit”.[7]

Promoting pilgrimages and the pastoral care of welcome in sanctuaries has to adhere fully to this proposal. They are privileged fields in which the ecumenism of holiness can grow and draw us nearer to the day when we can obtain the gift of the full and visible unity of the disciples of Christ. Our meeting is an invitation to see the value in what we are doing, to recognize the gifts with which the Holy Spirit is sustaining us and prepare ourselves for a greater fidelity in the future. 

Dear participants,

In this my first greeting to the Congress I have made ample use of the words of the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia in Europa. Needless to say, they are the best invitation to the task of these days. In addition I suggest you again take the document in hand in its entirety. It is all about proclaiming the hope that is also so necessary for those who in their pastoral work feel themselves assailed, many times justifiably, by the temptation to despair.

As President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, I wish to thank all of you for your participation in this Congress. In a very special way I would like to express our appreciation to Monsignor Richard Schulte Staade, Rector of the Sanctuary of Kevelaer, whose full collaboration has made this Congress possible. My gratitude also goes to the team of the Directorate, which has been intensely working on the preparation. I likewise thank the speakers, who have taken on the task of preparing the conferences, the brothers and sisters of the Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities that will share with us their experiences and reflections, and finally to all those who will present us the various programmed communications.

I entreat Mary, Mother of God, to assist us in our labours with her help and company, that she confirm us in our fidelity to the Gospel and make of this humble meeting an encouraging sign of hope.    

[1] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, n. 4.
[2]  ibid. n. 5.
[3]  ibid. n. 46.
[4]Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Il Santuario, spazio per  unÂ’accoglienza fraterna e universale, Atti del 3° Congresso Europeo sui Santuari e i Pellegrinaggi, Città del Vaticano 2002, p. 183.
[5] See Ecclesia in Europa, chaps. II, IV and V respectively.
[6]  ibid. n. 17.
[7]  ibid. n. 31.