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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 103 (Suppl.), April 2007



Vatican Radio Interview with

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto 


Q.    In his recent Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees the Holy Father also included foreign students in the phenomenon of migration, which he saw as a “sign of the times”. Why?

A. Although they are not generally thought of in this connection, foreign students are in fact part of this phenomenon, which is a “sign of the times”. Today we are witnessing a great increase in the number of persons studying abroad. There is an international exchange between high schools and universities on a world-wide scale and there is competition to have the best teachers.

In the year 2002 the number of foreign students had doubled as compared with 1980, reaching almost two million persons. At the present moment 28% of these students are in the U.S.A., and in fact for the first time chaplains from that country will be present at our Congress. Another 12% of foreign students are studying in Great Britain, 11% in Germany, 10% in  France, 9% in Australia and 4% in Japan. Of course foreign students are not highly qualified everywhere.

At all events there will be about 60 participants at our Congress, representing all the continents: bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay persons and students. 

Q.    As the theme of your Congress you have chosen “Foreign Students and the Erga migrantes caritas Christi”. Why?

A. The most important document of our Pontifical Council in recent years is the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, which was approved by Pope John Paul II on 1st May 2004. It deals with the migratory aspect of our concern for the specific pastoral care of human mobility, a concern that is shared by the Holy Father.

So it seemed an obvious choice to take that Document as the basis for deliberating on our apostlolate, applying it in its various parts to the case of foreign students, that is to the welcome we give them and our solidarity with them, in particular those coming from poor countries. It is a pastoral care of communion with missionary intent and with the aspects of the ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. For this reason there will be two fraternal Delegates with us (from the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Communion) and also a Lutheran observer.

We shall try to profit from European experience (CCEE), which after the Lineamenta is now taking form in a Directory for University Pastoral Care in Europe. We should like the question of foreign students and specific pastoral work among them to be included in this Directory too. This brings us to the matter of Pastoral Agents.

Q.    In fact what can you tell us about Pastoral Agents?

A. In particular I would say that following the First World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Foreign Students in 1996, and thanks to that Congress the SECIS, that is the “Service of European Churches for International Students”, came into being. It groups together some ten associations and works especially to encourage, in Europe, that specific pastoral care to which we devote our attention. Incidentally we have invited to our Congress not only the representatives of those Organisations, but also representatives of Episcopal Conferences, or their Councils on a continental level, Associations, Ecclesial Movements, male and female religious Congregations as well as other interested Dicasteria of the Roman Curia in order to create a general atmosphere of solidarity, welcome, dialogue and evangelisation in favour of foreign students.

For them we want to open  up their access to what already exists in the Universities, but with the addition especially of pastoral intentions.

We want – I repeat – to open up the traditional pastoral care practised in universities more and more to include the aspect of migration and at the same time to develop what already exists with solicitude for foreign students. We shall be accompanied in this by the vision of evangelisation as Liturgia, Diaconia et Martyria.