By Deborah Castellano Lubov
The mission of the Church to show love and stand with refugees and migrants around the world has no limits.
This was underlined during the press conference presenting the Message of Pope Francis for the 108and World Day for Migrants and Refugees, held Thursday at the Press Office of the Holy See.
The World Day will be celebrated on Sunday, September 25, 2022 under the theme “Building the future with migrants and refugees”.
“Building the future with migrants and refugees”
Those who made interventions on the message were: Fr. Fabio Baggio, CS, undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, responsible for the Migrants and Refugees and Special Projects Section; Dr Pascale Debbané, civil servant of Lebanese origin from the same Section for Migrants and Refugees; and Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, a member of the same Vatican Dicastery.
During the press conference, a video of the Holy Father for the preparation campaign for 108and The World Day of Migrants and Refugees has been revealed, emphasizing the need to welcome, love and promote migrants and refugees, and to value their enrichment for society.
Caring for refugees and migrants has always been a key theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate. He never ceased to insist on the need to welcome them, protect them, promote them and integrate them.
The vice-director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Cristiane Murray, before introducing the speakers, underlined how in these times, the migratory phenomenon is particularly poignant.
Prof. Fabio Baggio underlined the closeness of the Church to all the refugees and migrants of the world, in all circumstances.
“In a world deeply marked by the pandemic crisis and by old and new humanitarian emergencies, Pope Francis vigorously reaffirms the common commitment to build a future that responds more and more to God’s plan, a future of peace and prosperity, the Kingdom of God,” he said.
The Holy Father, Fr. Baggio recalled that the future must be built “with” migrants and refugees, “as well as with all the inhabitants of the existential peripheries, with the excluded and the marginalized, so that no one remains excluded”.
“Building with,” Fr. Baggio said, also means “recognizing and promoting the contribution of migrants and refugees to this work of construction, because only in this way can a world be built that ensures the conditions of the integral human development of all”.
For the Holy Father, “’building the future’ is an imperative that is expressed in the first person plural,” he said. “It is a duty and a commitment of each and everyone that must begin immediately ‘Because the future begins today and it begins with each one of us.'”
A personal memory of healing
Dr. Pascale Debbané explained how she experienced this reality of migration in the first person.
During the war, the Lebanese-born Vatican official said, “My family had to emigrate to Canada.” She noted that they received a warm welcome and quickly integrated into the local community through their school, their parish and various activities in which they participated.
“As a teenager, I felt very guilty for leaving my country behind,” she said, admitting “integration was a challenge for me.”
Now Debbané, in his capacity at the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, assists local churches in the Middle East.
“Through painstaking work of personal conversion and reality transformation, I had to forgive and heal in order to fulfill my mission as Regional Coordinator. The human kindness I received then played a major role in helping me to heal and understand brotherhood.”
Asked by Vatican News how the Section is also reaching out to her native country, Lebanon, which has seen a massive influx of refugees from Syria, and for which the Holy Father has made various appeals, she explained how the The efforts of the Section are greatly achieved by possible thanks to the collaboration with the local Churches and through important partners also on the ground, such as Caritas Internationalis and Caritas at their more local levels, Jesuit Refugee Services, among others.
If you look in their eyes, we’re all the same
Cardinal Francesco Montenegro then took the floor. His former diocese of Agrigento on the Italian island of Sicily, whose jurisdiction extends to the island of Lampedusa, has taken in many refugees from Africa. The cardinal welcomed Pope Francis to Lampedusa during his historic visit in 2013.
With first-hand experience, Cardinal Montenegro welcomed the Pope’s invitation to reflect on the link between the “dimension of eternal life towards which we are heading” and “the present”, full of wars, marginalization and inequalities. He lamented an “abyssal distance” between the two.
“The future of which the Pope speaks in his message is not a generic ‘tomorrow’ but it is the certainty that belongs to the believer who knows that he is walking towards eternity; just as the present cannot be framed in a confusing set of facts that have nothing to do with God’s plan.”
“There are not some who welcome and others who are welcomed, but brothers who must be loved, learn to make cultural, religious or social diversity a great opportunity for growth for all. My experience as Bishop of Agrigento allows me to confirm these principles which animate the message of Pope Francis.”
Young people are more welcoming
The cardinal cautioned against categorizing or prejudice these individuals.
The Pope, said the Cardinal, addresses this appeal to everyone and in particular to young people.
“Indeed,” he observes, “they are more willing to enter into this vision. So many associations, Catholic and non-Catholic, approach the migrant and the refugee precisely with the spirit desired by Pope Francis. It is natural for young people to break up. They feel the future is their home, and I believe that we must trust their instincts more to build paths of integration between all the peoples of the earth.
Cardinal Montenegro concluded by quoting a central part of the prayer that closes the Pope’s message: “Lord, make us builders of your Kingdom, with migrants and refugees and with all those who inhabit the peripheries”.