In his message for the upcoming World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Benedict XVI proposed the Holy Family of Nazareth, which fled to Egypt to avoid the persecutions of King Herod, as a model of life for families affected by migration.
In a text, made public today, the Holy Father explained that, “In this misfortune experienced by the Family of Nazareth, obliged to take refuge in Egypt, we can catch a glimpse of the painful condition in which all migrants live, especially, refugees, exiles, evacuees, internally displaced persons, those who are persecuted. We can take a quick look at the difficulties that every migrant family lives through, the hardships and humiliations, the deprivation and fragility of millions and millions of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people. The Family of Nazareth reflects the image of God safeguarded in the heart of every human family, even if disfigured and weakened by emigration.”
Referring to the theme of the upcoming World Day, “The migrant family,” the Pope indicated the many difficulties encountered by families.
“The distance of its members from one another and unsuccessful reunification often result in breaking the original ties. New relationships are formed and new affections arise. Some migrants forget the past and their duties, as they are subjected to the hard trial of distance and solitude. If the immigrant family is not ensured of a real possibility of inclusion and participation, it is difficult to expect its harmonious development,” he explained.
In this sense, the Holy Father noted that, “the Church encourages the ratification of the international legal instruments that aim to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and their families and, through its various Institutions and Associations, offers its advocacy that is becoming more and more necessary.”
“To this end,” the Pope said, the Church, “has opened Centers where migrants are listened to, Houses where they are welcomed, Offices for services offered to persons and families, with other initiatives set up to respond to the growing needs in this field.”
“Much is already being done for the integration of the families of immigrants, although much still remains to be done,” he added.
The Pope also made a special mention of the difficulties of a growing number of women, “who leave their countries of origin in search of better conditions of life, in view of more promising professional prospects.”
“However,” he noted, “women who end up as victims of trafficking of human beings and of prostitution are not few in number. In family reunification, social workers, especially religious women, can render an appreciated service of mediation that merits our gratitude more and more.”
Pope Benedict also referred to the families of immigrants, “whose conditions seem to have gone worse in comparison with the past, also specifically regarding the reunification of family nuclei. In the camps assigned to them, in addition to logistic difficulties, and those of a personal character linked to the trauma and emotional stress caused by the tragic experiences they went through, sometimes there is also the risk of women and children being involved in sexual exploitation, as a survival mechanism.”
“In these cases an attentive pastoral presence is necessary. Aside from giving assistance capable of healing the wounds of the heart, pastoral care should also offer the support of the Christian community, able to restore the culture of respect and have the true value of love found again,” he said.
The Pope also made mention of, “the students from other countries, who are far from home, without an adequate knowledge of the language, at times without friends and often with a scholarship that is insufficient for their needs. Their condition is even worse if they are married. Through its Institutions, the Church exerts every effort to render the absence of family support for these young students less painful. It helps them integrate in the cities that receive them, by putting them in contact with families that are willing to offer them hospitality and facilitate knowing one another.”
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday, January 14, 2007.