VATICAN CITY, 25 OCT 2011
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples held a press conference this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present Benedict XVI's Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2012. The Day is due to be celebrated on 15 January 2012 under the theme of "Migrations and New Evangelisation". Participating in this morning's press conference were Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil and Fr. Gabriele Ferdinando Bentoglio C.S., respectively president, secretary and under secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
Archbishop Veglio explained how the Holy Father's Message is divided into three parts, covering migrant workers, refugees and international students. New evangelisation is addressed to all these groups, he said, in a social context in which "the mix of nationalities and religions is increasing exponentially. ... Faced with this challenge, the Church is impelled to reconsider her methods, forms of expression and language, so as to renew her missionary efforts. A 'new' evangelisation, then, does not affect the contents and the value of the missionary mandate, as handed down by Holy Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium".
Migration offers an opportunity to teach the Gospel to people from other regions of the world who have not yet met Christ. At the same time, many Christians migrate to countries in which theirs is a minority religion, or in which it has been reduced to a mere cultural phenomenon. In both these cases, lay people can announce the good news through word and example, supported by appropriate pastoral care. "New evangelisation in the world of migrants must, in fact, involve the laity and rest on dialogue at all levels", said archbishop Veglio.
Finally the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples expressed his desire to echo the Pope's words in thanking everyone "who dedicates time, energy and resources to the pastoral care of migrants, often in silence and sometimes even at the risk of their lives".
Bishop Kalathiparambil noted that, according to statistics of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 80 percent of the world's refugees are currently hosted in developing countries. At the same time, in many industrialised nations there are growing feelings of hostility towards such people. Christians, however, are called to see in asylum seekers and refugees "the face of Christ, which makes us brothers and sisters", he said. "Welcome may be defined as a sign which distinguishes the Church. It is the fundamental characteristic of pastoral solicitude for migrants and refugees, and runs counter to all feelings and expressions of xenophobia and racism".
Fr. Gabriele Bentoglio focused his remarks on the question of international students, whose numbers are expected to reach seven million by the year 2025. For this reason, he said, "there is an urgent and growing need that places of education and formation, especially universities, make the vital strategic link between the 'profound thirst for truth and the desire to encounter God'". At the same time, in a globalised world, "education must be extended to cover the integral formation of the person, and the transmission of such values as: individual and collective sense of responsibility, ethical work, and solidarity with the entire human family over and above national identity".
Finally Fr. Bentoglio announced that the pontifical council is in the process of organising a world congress on the pastoral care of international students. The congress, due to be held in Rome from 30 November to 3 December on the theme "International Students and the Meeting of Cultures", will bring together 123 delegates from all over the world, as well as representatives from religious institutes, lay associations and regional and international organisations.
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