Message of the pope for the 91st Day of Migrants and Refugees

Source: FSSPX News

On December 9, the pope made an appeal in favor of an “authentic integration” of immigrants in a message addressed to the entire Catholic world.

This statement was made on the occasion of the 91st Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated this coming January 16, 2005 on the theme of “cultural integration”. According to Pope John Paul II, we must recognize “the legitimate plurality of cultures present in a country”, but “in a way that is compatible with the protection of that order on which social peace and the freedom of citizens depend”.

Pope John Paul II wrote:

In our societies affected by the phenomenon of global migration, it is necessary to look for a just equilibrium between respect for one’s own identity and the acknowledgment of the identity of the other. [We must ] exclude not only models founded on assimilation, which tends to make someone who is different a carbon-copy of oneself, but also models of marginalization of immigrants, which include attitudes that can lead to the choice of apartheid”. The pope then clarified that the right way is that of “authentic integration with an open attitude, which refuses to focus exclusively on the differences between immigrants and the local populations.

John-Paul II insists on this point: the migrant, in his process of integration, “must endeavor to take the necessary steps toward social insertion, such as learning the national language and adapting to the laws and demands of work”. He continued, "Thus, there will come about the necessity of a dialog between men of different cultures, in a context of pluralism going beyond simple tolerance and arriving at sympathy”.

“We should promote a reciprocal enrichment of cultures”, which assumes “mutual familiarity and openness among them, in a context of understanding and of authentic good will”. This is true because, for the pope, a simple juxtaposition of groups of migrants and locals tends toward a mutual closing between cultures, or rather to the establishment of surface relations or mere tolerance.

Lastly, the pope evoked the role of Christians who know “how to recognize in different cultures the presence of precious human and religious elements”, which are able “to offer robust perspectives of mutual agreement”. For Pope John Paul II, Christians must first of all “listen to the call for help coming from the many migrants and refugees”, so they can then “by an active undertaking, promote perspectives of hope”, which will become the prelude to a more open and united society…

According to the pope it is, however, necessary “to unite the principle of respect for different cultures with that of the safeguarding of common inalienable values founded on universal human rights”, for, he concludes, this is the only means of “forming this civic climate of justice which allows for an amicable and serene coexistence”.

During the presentation to the press of the pope’s message, which was reported by the Apic agency, Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, President of the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, deplored the conditions of “social inequality” in which immigrants often live. “Intercultural education”, which is above all an “education and acceptance of diversity”, is for him “the solution to the difficult problem of the harmonization” of humanity. “Often, when we speak of diversity, the emphasis is placed on cultural differences” and “social inequalities that characterize the life of immigrants” are forgotten. We must also “work to remove obstacles to the social parity of immigrants while emphasizing the value of the qualities of people coming from different cultural contexts”.

Defining the different types of immigrants – those bringing their skills to the service of the economy of a host country and those, whether persecuted or threatened, who seek refuge therein, Fr. Michael Blume, Under-Secretary of the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, warned against two possible stumbling blocks of immigration. On the one hand, integration which, taking the form of assimilation, deprives the host country “of the cultural and human contribution of the immigrant”, and on the other hand, “the opposite of assimilation”, manifested by a self-seclusion of the immigrants to protect their identity, which can lead to a ghettoization of these populations. “Integration is not a one-way street, it is not the sole duty of the immigrant, but also of the host society”, Fr. Blume added, emphasizing that integration is also “a long-term project”. For him, “there is true integration, when there is interaction between the immigrants and the native population”, not only on the economic, but also on the cultural levels. Such are the conditions for “a mutual enrichment allowing the society to become a kaleidoscope, where each culture has its place”, he added.

Mentioning for his part “one of the most difficult challenges of the third millennium is learning to live together in the diversity and multiplicity of cultures, ethnic groups and religions”, Mgr. Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, explained that “respect and recognition of different cultural identities must not be an obstacle, but rather an essential condition to the construction of a humanity united in plurality”. For him, “today’s migratory phenomenon, which has become preponderant in our communities, requires of us not only recognition, but also specific works of discernment and education.

The world has 715 million migrants, recalled Fr. Blume. Of these 175 millions, Europe counts 56 millions, Asia 50 millions, North America 41 millions, Africa 16 millions and South America and Oceania 6 millions each. The major host countries are the United States (35 million immigrants), Russia (13 millions), Germany (7 millions), India, France and Canada (6 millions each) and Saudi Arabia (5 millions).