Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 103 (Suppl.), April 2007
Dr. Gary VACHICOURAS
Representative of the World Council of Churches.
(Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate)
His Eminence Stephen Fumio Cardinal Hamao, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and His Excellency Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary, in convoking this IInd World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Catholic Foreign Students, have chosen to examine this category of immigrants in light of the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi. The pastoral care of foreign students, a common concern of all of our member churches, indeed flows from the love of Christ. The ecumenical experience of foreign students has been enriching our Ecumenical Institute in Bossey due to a student body composed of all Christian traditions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Old Catholics, Reformed Churches, etc. In view of the ever-increasing migratory flow of students in an ecumenical and interreligious context, we are grateful that such a meeting is being held which will contribute to enhancing the pastoral care of foreign students as they are challenged, in their respective fields of academic studies, with their Christian vocation to transform the world. In fact, the theme of the upcoming World Council of Churches Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, is God, in your Grace, Transform the World where we shall have among us a number of representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. Recently, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches during which we affirmed our partnership. This lasting relationship has not only enriched the annals of our history of cooperation, it has also reached the local churches. On this occasion we had the immense joy and blessing in receiving a message by His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The pastoral care of these foreign students indeed begins at the very moment when they decide to depart from their own country to study abroad and continues during their temporary residence in the host country as well as upon their return to their countries of origin. However, universities, institutions, other organizations and the people in the host countries, must be awakened to their responsibilities in caring for international students with specific needs (not only spiritual but also material) in order to facilitate integration and communication. Therefore, I am sure that the reports, surveys and evaluation of welcome and solidarity, to be presented at your meeting would provide further insights on these, crucial issues that ultimately affect the spiritual formation and experience of each foreign student. The wide range of topics to be presented by the distinguished organizers and specialists during your meeting will indeed stimulate theological reflection in order to implement concrete pastoral action. We, therefore, as pastoral agents of our respective traditions, and on an ecumenical level, look forward to the results of your meeting which will help our churches and communities to deal more effectively with the common future of their foreign students during their academic and spiritual journey. Furthermore, in view of our commitment to the restoration of Christian unity and to the promotion of peace and justice in the world based on the organic unity of humankind, new initiatives and the reinforcement of collaboration and dialogue among our foreign students could have an enormous impact on the future of our inter-church and inter-religious relations.
For we all know that our calling for the love of Christ towards migrants is based on the theological foundation that each human person is created in the image of God. The absolute and universal value is the sacredness of each human person whom we are called to serve in the name of Christ. We as Christians, as people of God, in general, are "perpetual migrants" towards the Kingdom of God - a journey guided by the Holy Spirit, who guides us into the whole truth (Jn 16:13) - having committed ourselves here and now to the rebirth and renewal of human society. Therefore let us pray in the words of the theme of the forthcoming WCC Assembly, God, in your grace, transform the world, to confess our readiness to proclaim the good news that the Triune God has acted to dignify humanity through God's incarnation in Jesus Christ and to begin the transformation of a world that knows little of grace and mercy.