The 7th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, was held at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Vatican City, from November 17 to 21, 2014. Nearly 300 participants, including Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), Donald Kerwin, Executive Director of CMS, and delegates from Bishops’ Conferences, Church institutions and agencies from over 90 countries attended. The theme of this seventh convening was, “Cooperation and Development in the Pastoral Care of Migrations.”
Throughout its history – and most notably in the past century – the Catholic Church has sought to minster and care for “people on the move,” including migrants, refugees, internally displaced people, seafarers, itinerants and others. Pastoral programs have ministered to and advocated for migrants worldwide, providing pastoral care and direct assistance, including legal aid, employment and shelter. In March 1970, Pope Paul VI established The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
Over several years, the Council has gathered Catholic leaders for the World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants. This seventh gathering called on participants to reflect upon global migration and to propose a renewed Catholic pastoral approach at the international, regional and local levels. Particular attention was focused on young migrants, the challenge of family separation, and the increasing feminization of migration, and women’s vulnerability to smuggling, trafficking, sexual violence and labor exploitation.
During the Congress, representatives from various Catholic conferences around the world offered presentations. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offered a short video highlighting the importance of recognizing cultural diversity in its work with migrants at national, diocesan and parish levels. USCCB’s presentation also featured the particular role of Migration and Refugee Services in advocating for immigration reform legislation, providing social services, and communicating Catholic social teaching on migration.
On the final day of the convening, Pope Francis addressed participants, beginning his message by calling migration an “aspiration to hope.” The Holy Father praised pastoral workers for their service, saying, “[P]astoral workers play an important role through initiating dialogue, welcoming and assisting with legal issues, mediating with the local population.” He also called the Church a “source of hope” for migrants, saying, “[S]he develops programs of education and orientation, she raises her voice in defense of migrants’ rights; she offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may treated as children of God.”
Participants proposed collaborative action amongst all Church entities in countries of origin, transit and destination. Conclusions from the 7th World Congress are forthcoming and will be available at: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/migrants/index.htm.
To read the Holy Father’s full address, visit https://cmsny.org/wp-content/uploads/7th-WORLD-CONGRESS-MIGRANTS-DISCOURSE-OF-THE-HOLY-FATHER-ENGLISH.pdf.
News footage of the Holy Father’s address is available at http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-migration-an-aspiration-to-hope.
Photos courtesy of Msgr. Peter Zendzian