“Share the Journey” is the theme of Caritas Internationalis’ vast campaign that was launched by Pope Francis on Wednesday, September 27, at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, announced Vatican Radio.
The Holy Father encouraged people not to be afraid to share the journey and hope of migrants. “The poor have always been the first bearers of hope,” he said, for “hope is the force that drives the hearts of those who depart, leaving home, their homeland, at times their relatives and families, in search of a better life.”
The goal of the two-year campaign involving the 165 Caritas agencies throughout the world is to promote a culture of encounter with migrants and refugees. This same culture is also hammered home on the organization’s website, where the objections are exposed as myths one after another and “10 thoughts regarding migration and encounter” are presented.
During the press conference, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationalis, declared to political leaders that “we are all migrants, no one can pretend he is not a migrant who occupies and possesses the place where he is.” “Do not close your doors!” he insisted, inviting those “who are worried about their country to meet a migrant, listen to his story; they are like you and me, they are our brothers and sisters, and they have a contribution to make to our communities”. Through this campaign, “we hope to dispel fear and understand why so many people are leaving their homes at this time in history,” to see “fear give way to hope”, in the terms of the letter the Cardinal sent in June to all the Caritas agencies throughout the world. – Cardinal Tagle is presented by Eglises d’Asie (EDA) as a specialist on the Council who is very attached to Pope Francis’ plan for a “poor Church for the poor.”
On the political level, the pope has offered his support to the Italian help organizations for migrants that launched a petition in support of “a new migration law more adapted to today’s context”. On September 12, the Italian Parliament’s debate on a bill for birthright citizenship was postponed. The bill provides for granting the Italian nationality to 600,000 foreign minors born in Italy and having lived on the Peninsula for at least ten years.
On September 22, Francis received the episcopal conferences’ directors of pastoral care for migrants for a meeting organized by the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE). The pope made no secret of his “concern about manifestations of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia that have appeared in various parts of Europe” motivated “by mistrust and fear of the other, the foreigner, those who are different”, and his sorrow at seeing “that our Catholic communities in Europe are not exempt from these defensive and negative reactions”. The sovereign pontiff believes that this supposed “moral obligation to preserve an established religious and cultural identity” goes against the very principle of Catholicism, and this unease is due in his opinion to the economic crisis, the “sheer size and makeup of the continuing waves of migrants, the general unpreparedness of the countries that receive them”, and the “often inadequate national and community policies”. Francis persists in seeing these waves of migration as a “privileged opportunity” for the Church: “the arrival of great numbers of our brothers and sisters in the faith offers the Churches in Europe yet another opportunity to embody fully its catholicity.”
(Editorial Note: In this call to welcome refugees does he really only mean the persecuted Christians throughout the world? The answer can be found in a fact that received wide media coverage: the 12 migrants the pope brought back from the island of Lesbos on April 16, 2016, were all Muslim.)
The pope does not hesitate to declare that we need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate by means of opportunities for “active citizenship” that can be a source of development for all, “migrants and natives alike.”
Two questions arise, warns Jeanne Smits on the website Réinformation.tv: “How can we hope for a dignified future for migrants whose numbers are in the hundreds of thousands and whom it is all the more difficult to integrate since their culture and religion have nothing in common with those of the countries to which they have come? Simply asking the question is labeled as an attitude of rejection…And: should the societies receiving the migrants be considered responsible for the absence of respect and development of creativity? That is what seems to be implied in this call for unconditional welcome, based on emotion, a handshake, empathy. A sentimental utopia helping only to unravel identities.”
The website Aleteia adds that with the upcoming adoption of the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” that will be submitted to the United Nations in September 2018, Caritas agencies throughout the world hope to raise awareness among individuals and governments, to convince them that “The world is a better place when migrants are understood, welcomed and integrated. Not forced into modern slavery by people traffickers, poorly protected by weak laws and a lack of will and compassion.” This campaign is moving along in step with a political agenda that defends the rights of migrants…
On January 15, 2017, on the website Atlantico, the French journalist Laurent Dandrieu, author of Eglise et immigration: le grand malaise (Church and Immigration – The Great Unease) (Plon), rightly denounced the Church’s “biased view” of Islam: “Since the 1960’s, the Church has entered into an active phase of interreligious dialogue that seems to me to be particularly flawed with regards to Islam, since it is not conducted in a spirit of truth: on the pretext of preserving the ‘fruits of the dialogue’ – that in reality are non-existent – they have come to speak angelically of Islam, denying its problem with violence and overlooking its incompatibility with western values. The Church sees the progressive settling of millions of Muslims in Europe as a simple consequence of globally positive migration waves, and the progress of the Muslim cult on our continent as an inevitable manifestation of religious liberty. But the civilizational question is simply never brought up.”