By Matthew A. Rarey
“Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance,” the Pope said Oct. 29, quoting his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
Held on Jan. 13, 2013, the upcoming day's theme will be “Migrations: Pilgrimage of Faith and Hope.” This title, the Pope said, was chosen especially in light of the Year of Faith he inaugurated on Oct. 11 which marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
“Faith and hope are inseparable in the hearts of many migrants, who deeply desire a better life and not infrequently try to leave behind the 'hopelessness' of an unpromising future,” he wrote in his message, presented at a Vatican press briefing Monday.
“During their journey many of them are sustained by the deep trust that God never abandons his children; this certainty makes the pain of their uprooting and separation more tolerable and even gives them the hope of eventually returning to their country of origin,” the pontiff said.
“Faith and hope are often among the possessions which emigrants carry with them.”
The Pope's message was presented by Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio and Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
Citing the International Organization for Migration's World Migration Report 2011, Cardinal Veglio noted the magnitude of the issue: Roughly one billion people, a seventh of the world’s population, are either seeking refuge abroad or internally displaced within their own countries.
“On their existential pilgrimage towards a better future, migrants carry with them feelings of faith and hope, even if they are not yet aware exactly what they are searching for,” Cardinal Veglio said.
“To say that they are trying only to improve their economic or social situation would be to over simplify the issue.”
He went on to note that not all migrants, even if they have strong faith, “consider their journey as a movement towards God.” Even so, they may come to recognize God’s love through the ministries of the Church. This is especially true in countries of “ancient Christian tradition.”
Cardinal Veglio then went on to point out that the message for this World Day is being presented soon after the Pope's September journey to Lebanon.
“Thus,” he said, “our gaze can turn specifically to the countries of the Middle East where the presence of Christian migrants, among believers of other religions, has a significant role in creating the very special identity of that region...And this is true not only of the Middle East, but of the entire world. The phenomenon of migration obliges us to encounter different lifestyles and different cultures, stimulating the creation of new relationships.”
Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, a native of India, drew attention to harmful restrictive measures imposed by certain countries “to hinder access to their territories,” such as “the requirement of visas, sanctions applied to transporters, and lists of safe countries of origin.
These measures,” he said, “have encouraged the activities of smugglers and traffickers, and led to dangerous sea crossings during which far too many human lives have already been lost.”
“Even so, the Holy Father's message stressed that charity shown toward migrants entails reciprocal obligations: Migrants and refugees must be good guests, attentive “to the values offered by the society to which they now belong,” the archbishop said.
Pope Benedict added in his message that through its various agencies and ministries, the Church seeks to assist migrants and refugees out of a desire animated by love – not only materially assisting them, but offering them that “precious gift when she guides people to an encounter with Christ, which opens the way to a stable and trustworthy hope.”
The Vatican has released Pope Benedict's message for the upcoming ninety-ninth World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in which he urged global respect for those forced to leave their homelands.
Refugees, Pope Benedict XVI