The Vatican’s top diplomat to the United Nations refugee agency told a conference in Rome that despite its challenges, migration is ultimately beneficial to everyone involved.
“In the long run migration has proven to be a benefit for both the countries of arrival and the countries of origin and, above all, for most of the migrants,” Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Holy See's Permanent Representative to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told CNA.
Archbishop Tomasi was speaking at a March 8 conference in Rome entitled “Building Bridges of Opportunity: Migration and Diversity” organized by the US Embassy to the Holy See and hosted by the Pontifical North American College.
He explained how any migration process initially brings challenges, which include “tensions, difficulties because of different languages, different habits and cultures which tend to clash.”
But if the native community can “overcome this first phase” they will then see how migrants “become good citizens of the new host country” and can “contribute not only their muscles and their work but their brain and their creativity to make the society a richer and more interesting type of society.”
Joining him on the panel were Miguel Diaz, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Demetrios Papademetriou of the Washington based Migration Policy Institute and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
During the seminar Cardinal Ravasi criticized some rural parts of northern Italy who he says reject immigration into their communities.
“These villages which are known to be very Catholic but actually are not Catholic at all,” said the Cardinal, “because they fight to keep the crucifix in the classroom but they happily take a migrant and throw him to the sea.”
He said that in these areas “being Christian meant going to the procession, devotions, prayer but evidently it had not got into the deepest part of human souls.” Thus he called for “a new evangelization” to catechize people on the issue of immigration.
Archbishop Tomasi said a balance had to be struck between “our Christian tradition of welcome of strangers” and the “need to keep into account the common good of country of arrival.”
“We can take in people but we cannot hurt the interest and the good of the workers in the country where people are trying to arrive,” he explained.
“The bottom line,” he said “is that migration is good for everybody” but “we need to educate ourselves to overcome the difficulties of the first years of impact.”