Migration and Itinerancy
from and towards Islamic majority Countries
Conclusions from Plenary Session of Pontifical Council for Migrants and
Travelers (May 15-17, 2006)
Muslim Migrants in countries
of Christian majority
1) In this regard, an increase in immigration of Muslims was observed
in European and North American countries, of ancient Christian
tradition (see instruction "Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi" --
henceforth EMCC -- Nos. 59 and 65). They come in search of a job or
democracy, or for family reunification.
2) From this came the encouragement of integration (not assimilation)
of Muslim immigrants (cf. EMCC 2, 60-61).
3) In consequence Catholics, in particular, are called to practice
solidarity with Muslim immigrants, to be open to sharing with them and
to know more about their culture and religion. At the same time they
are to bear witness to their own Christian values, also in view of a
new evangelization which of course respects freedom of conscience and
religion (cf. EMCC, 59 and 69).
4) This means that Christians must get to know more deeply their
identity (cf. EMCC, 60) as disciples of Christ, bearing witness to this
in their lives and rediscovering their role in the new evangelization
(cf. EMCC, 86-88).
5) It is therefore important to affirm the necessity of mutual respect
and human solidarity, in an atmosphere of peace, based on the
centrality of the human person, his/her dignity, rights and duties.
6) Naturally, each one's human rights and freedoms go hand in hand with
those of others.
7) The participants in the Plenary Session strongly showed awareness of
the need for authentic dialogue between believers of different
religions, especially between Christians and Muslims (cf. EMCC, 69).
8) In this context, relations based on "spiritual emulation" were
9) Thus, if dialogue between Christians and Muslims is indispensable
everywhere, it is especially so in Western societies, in order to
improve mutual knowledge and understanding, as well as reciprocal
respect and peace.
10) In any case, while it is necessary to welcome Muslim immigrants
with respect for their religious freedom, it is likewise indispensable
for them to respect the cultural and religious identity of the host
11) It was also deemed vital to distinguish between what the receiving
societies can and cannot tolerate in Islamic culture, what can be
respected or shared with regard to followers of other religions (see
EMCC, 65 and 66), and to have the possibility of giving indications in
this regard also to policymakers, toward a proper formulation of civil
legislation, with due respect for each one's competence.
12) This means also proposing a model of religious dialogue which is
not only conversation, nor just listening to one another, but which
reaches a mutual revelation of each one's own profound spiritual
13) It is therefore important to accompany the dialogue partner in the
process of thinking out the ethical and actual dimensions, and not only
the theological and religious ones, of the consequences of requests
addressed to civil society, while duly respecting the distinction
between civil and religious dialogue.
14) Given the reaffirmed importance of the principle of reciprocity
(see EMCC, 64), confirmed by the Holy Father in his talk to the
participants in the plenary session, it is thus necessary to move
toward a distinction between the civil and the religious spheres also
in Islamic countries.
15) In any case, it is fundamental, in this context, to distinguish
between the West and Christianity, because often Christian values no
longer inspire the attitude, position or actions (also with regard to
public opinion) in the so-called Western world (see EMCC, 60).
16) The participants of the plenary session also expressed the hope
that in those areas where Christian and Muslims "live together," they
may unite their efforts, together with all their other fellow citizens,
to guarantee everyone, without distinction of religion, the full
exercise of his/her rights and individual freedoms, personally and as a
member of a community.
Situation in some Islamic
17) On the other hand, in Islamic majority countries, Christians and
immigrant workers, in general, who are poor and without real
contractual power, have great difficulty in having their human rights
recognized. The latter, moreover, have very little possibility of
having their cause respected before justice, because they can easily be
punished or deported.
18) The Church is therefore called to help Christian migrants in those
countries, as well as in the whole world, in a context of due respect
for legality and an interest in the formulation of just legislations
concerning human mobility and the legal protection of all those
involved. However, there were participants who called to mind that, in
the different countries, the situation should be such that it would not
be necessary for their citizens to go abroad in order to survive.
19) Moreover, in conformity with the directives of the conciliar decree
"Christus Dominus" (No. 18), the Church has to ensure that the faithful
who are not adequately catered for by the ordinary, i.e. territorial,
pastoral ministry on account of their mobility, or are entirely
deprived of it, are provided with a specific and even integrated
pastoral care. This is true also in Islamic-majority countries.
20) In these countries, it is the task of the local Church to welcome
immigrants and itinerants, in spite of a scanty personnel and perhaps
21) In this respect, dialogue and collaboration are necessary between
the Church of origin of migrants and itinerants and that in their
destination countries, for their spiritual care. This is in fact a
general rule for all countries (cf. EMCC, 70 and 50-55).
22) In addition, international migrants must also be helped to make
their own contribution to the community where they live, and to the
local portion of the People of God.
23) At the same time, the receiving community should develop a sense of
solidarity toward immigrants and others who are in similar
Solicitude of the Church in
the various sectors of human mobility
The participants in the plenary session also considered the various
sectors of migration and itinerancy. Everyone was convinced that with
regard to migrants:
24) The Church must take care that they are properly integrated, with
due respect for each one's culture and religion (cf. Pope John Paul,
Message for the World Day of Peace 2001, No. 8, and Message for the
World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2005, No. 3).
25) Therefore the Church must encourage dialogue that is intercultural
and social, as well as interreligious, with respect for due
distinctions (cf. Pope John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace
2001, No. 12).
For the various sectors, the
following were observed particularly:
26) The need to create bonds of friendship, in an atmosphere of respect
for cultural and religious differences, also with people who think of
going back to their place of origin, like migrants, or with foreign
(international) students who will be the future leaders of their
27) For refugees and foreign students, but not only for these, it was
felt desirable to set up chaplaincies.
28) With regard to pilgrimages, the need was underlined to urge
pilgrims to seek God's countenance also in the believers of other
29) In airports, crossroads of varied people, and in railway stations,
hope was expressed for the presence of specifically Catholic chapels
there, or places of prayer, even multi-religious ones, when only those
30) In Stella Maris Centers (Apostleship of the Sea), it is worthwhile
to continue welcoming also Muslim seafarers, with respectful spiritual
assistance, when requested.
31) With respect to the gypsy population, object of marginalization,
xenophobia and racism, it was deemed necessary to fortify the maturity
of democratic societies and their capacity to understand and respect
the social, cultural and religious diversity of this people (cf.
Guidelines for a Pastoral Care of Gypsies, No. 50).
32) As far as the "women of the street" are concerned -- given that
poverty and the trafficking of human beings often lead to selling one's
body, and that prostitution may depend on Christians and Muslims -- it
is considered necessary to build awareness with the whole society as
33) However, a renewed commitment is called for to involve women in
decision making, especially in issues affecting them, as well as in the
work of convincing parents [to] provide girls with education equivalent
to that given to boys, which should obviously include ethical formation.
Schools and education
The participants in the plenary session laid great emphasis on the fact
34) It is important to ensure education to the new generations, also
because the school has a fundamental role to play in overcoming the
conflict of ignorance and prejudices, and to have a correct and
objective knowledge of the other's religion, with special attention to
the freedom of conscience and religion (cf. EMCC, 62). Moreover, for
Christians, provisions will be made to give them the basis for an
evangelical discernment of the religious experience of believers in
other religions (cf. EMCC, 65) and of the signs of the times.
35) It is therefore indispensable to work for a verification of
textbooks also regarding the presentation of history in relation to the
religions, which shapes one's identity, and transmits an image of the
other's religious identity.
36) In any event it is necessary to delve more deeply into studies,
teachings and research regarding the various faces of historical and/or
contemporary Islam, including the varying degrees of its acceptance of
sound modernity (cf. EMCC, 66).
37) Muslim parents and religious leaders must be helped to understand
the righteous intentions of the Western educational systems and the
concrete consequences of their refusal of the education imparted in the
schools of these systems within which their children live.
States and religious freedom
38) Since, very often, it is the state that gives "form" to Islam in
certain countries of Islamic majority, organizes its worship,
interprets its spirit, transmits its heritage, thus giving the whole of
society a globally Islamic character, the non-Muslims very often feel
that they are second-class citizens. For Christian immigrants therefore
the difficulty is even greater.
39) It is therefore necessary to work hard everywhere so that what
prevails would be a culture of "living together" between host and
immigrant populations, in a spirit of mutual civic understanding and
respect for everyone's human rights. It is also necessary to search
ways for reconciliation and of purifying memories (cf. EMCC, 65). We
must also become advocates in defense of religious freedom -- our
constant imperative -- and of common good, and procure respect for
minorities, which is an unquestionable sign of true civilization.
40) It was observed with satisfaction that many states of Islamic
majority have established diplomatic relations with the Holy See, thus
becoming more sensitive in guaranteeing human rights, affirming the
will to establish intercultural and interreligious dialogue, in the
framework of sound plurality.
41) In this context, it is necessary to deplore, in some countries, the
restrictions of human rights, especially when linked to religious
differences, and the absence of the freedom also to change one's
religion. It is hoped, however, that the public authorities of the
countries of origin of Christian emigrants will help their citizens, in
Islamic countries, achieve the effective exercise of religious freedom.
42) Those countries are thus encouraged to create spaces for exchange
with countries of Islamic majority, on themes regarding universal
common good, respect for minorities, human rights and especially
religious freedom, foundation of all freedoms.
43) In any case, the Church must continue its initiatives of
intercultural and interreligious dialogue, at different levels,
especially when these are facilitated by political leaders.
44) Collaboration between Christian and Muslim institutions to bring
aid to individuals and populations in need, without any discrimination,
is an effective sign that destroys prejudices and closure toward mutual
and reasonable openness.
45) The growing extent to which Muslims and Christians "live together"
can provide an opportunity for collaborating together in view of a more
peaceful world, respectful of each one's identity and more united in
the service of common good, seeing that we all constitute one human
family, which is in need of hope (cf. EMCC, 101-103).
46) In this context, collaboration among the various dicasteries of the
Roman Curia, the episcopal conferences and the particular Churches is
of capital importance.
47) A factor of unity, in legitimate diversity, will be the awareness
of the dignity of every human person, whatever may be his race,
culture, citizenship or religion. This is a value that is being
affirmed more and more universally, in spite of all the incoherence and
its practical denial in daily life.
48). In this context the participants in the plenary session paid
particular attention to the African continent, which is in special need
of political stability and multilateral cooperation, toward its
peaceful and integral development.
49) In this respect, too, some causes of tension and conflict were
considered, with the hope that these situations would be resolved
justly and quickly, also to prevent war, violence and terrorism. It is
in any case necessary to avoid the abusive use of religion to inculcate
hatred for believers of other religions or for ideological and
50) It is therefore hoped that Muslim and Christian intellectuals, in
the name of a common humanism and of their respective beliefs, would
pose to themselves the dramatic questions linked to the use of
violence, often still perpetrated in the name of their religion.
The role of mass media
51) It is recognized that the media are particularly important for the
creation of an appropriate climate of understanding and respect as they
give information on religious matters. Journalists and mass media
operators, in general, should therefore assume their own
responsibilities especially with regard to information, and not only
concerning freedom of speech, in a world that is becoming more and more
52) Mass media can also give an important contribution to the
"formation" (and, unfortunately, vice versa, the deformation) of
Christians and Muslims.
We conclude this final document noting the great satisfaction of the
participants regarding the content, work method and up-to-dateness of
this plenary session, which roused great interest.
Vatican City, 19 June 2006
Summary of Interventions in
Plenary Session of Pontifical Council
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the summary that the
organizers issued of the interventions in the plenary session of the
Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, held May 15-17.
The theme of the session was "Migration and Itinerancy from and toward
Islamic Majority Countries."
* * *
The phenomenon of human mobility, a sign of our times, raises a number
of problems, religious and spiritual, besides social, economic and
political ones. When discussing "migration and itinerancy from and
toward Islamic majority Countries," the complexity, timeliness and
importance of the topic are evident. These issues were discussed during
the 17th Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral
Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, with the participation of
members and consultors of the dicastery, together with pastoral agents
In his greeting to the participants, at the Vatican, His Holiness Pope
Benedict XVI affirmed that interreligious dialogue is an integral part
of the Church's commitment to the service of mankind today and is
almost the "daily bread" of those working in contact with migrants,
refugees and people on the move. Individual Christians, the Holy Father
added, "are called to open their arms and their hearts to every person
-- especially the lowly and the poor -- from whatever nation they come,
allowing the authorities responsible for public life to enforce the
relevant laws held to be appropriate for a healthy living together,"
with due respect for the human rights of all.
Pope Benedict XVI concluded, "It is to be hoped that Christians who
emigrate to nations with an Islamic majority will also be welcomed and
their religious identity respected." He defined the pastoral care of
migrants and itinerant people as "a significant frontier in the new
evangelization in the current globalized world."
The president of the pontifical council, Cardinal Renato Raffaele
Martino, opened the plenary session with a talk entitled "The Theme of
the Plenary Meeting as seen in our recent Documents and Congresses."
Along the lines of the affirmations made by the Holy Father, he
observed that to give a positive solution to the problems posed by the
ever increasing number of migrants and itinerants from and toward
Islamic majority countries, it is necessary to engage in a frank and
sincere interreligious dialogue, a lived witness of charity and
welcome, scrupulous respect for religious freedom, a proper social and
cultural integration that respects civil laws in force, and reciprocity
that is rightly understood.
The main points of the cardinal's address included the wish that there
be, not only on the Catholic side, but on the Muslim side as well, "a
growing awareness that fundamental liberties, the inviolable rights of
the person, the equal dignity of man and woman, the democratic
principle of government and the healthy lay character of the state are
principles that cannot be surrendered" (Instruction "Erga Migrantes
Caritas Christi" -- henceforth EMCC -- 66).
In his address entitled "The Changes, Views and Activities of the
Pontifical Council since the last Plenary Meeting," the secretary of
the pontifical council, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, emphasized that
one of the objectives of the present meeting was to convince everyone
of the importance of a true dialogue, which should be more and more
wide-ranging. From this some concrete conclusions are to be drawn, to
ensure welcome and understanding also for people moving from and toward
Islamic majority countries.
These people or groups are also asked to make a sincere and generous
contribution to the welfare of the host community and to the local
Church itself. Archbishop Marchetto then added that the more settled
communities are invited to understand the particular needs of their
"guests" or immigrants, hence developing a great sense of solidarity.
In this way, the local population and the newcomers, all together,
could contribute to the attainment of a culture of "living together,"
understanding and peace, respecting the human rights of each person.
Then, starting with a more critical analysis of the historical events
that still condition human mobility today, the archbishop secretary
then asserted that it is possible for the Churches ("a qua" and "ad
quam") to make an indispensable contribution to society, for a just
regulation of human mobility itself and for the protection of the
people involved in it, and indeed for all people. The basis for this
are reciprocal respect and justice in treating juridical and religious
questions. "Reciprocity is also an attitude of heart and spirit that
enables us to live together everywhere with equal rights and duties"
Speaking in the afternoon of the first day of the plenary session,
Father Maurice Borrmans, M.Afr., a former professor of the Pontifical
Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, gave a complete (numerically
and geographically) and detailed (statistically) picture of the
present-day situation "of how people 'live together' in countries with
an Islamic majority and an ancient or recent Christian minority."
According to Father Borrmans, the possibility of "living together" in
that way, in the future, has become very precarious due to clashes
between different factions and by the terrorist attacks of the last few
years. In fact, he affirmed, "it is always the minorities that run the
risk of becoming 'scapegoats' as a result of facile generalizations and
simplistic mixtures that revive old prejudices and dreams of crusades
or jihad." The Islamic world is not monolithic. Human mobility has
reactivated the problems of "living together." The result is an
original and sometimes contradictory relationship between religion,
culture, state and juridical order, much more so since in grasping
modernity, democracy and the lay character of a society, each country
comes up with a synthesis that completely reflects a given context.
The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue,
Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, who was the next to address the plenary
session, observed that "the growing phenomenon of human mobility
continues to bring about a crossing of those geopolitical borders
which, in many cases, used to constitute the demarcation lines between
the Christian and the Islamic worlds."
To reach a peaceful living together, Archbishop Celata recalled the
affirmation of the Holy Father Benedict XVI that "dialogue is a vital
necessity," especially for Christians, who are called to love their
neighbor by the strength and on the example of Christ. Referring to the
Pope's teaching, in his talk addressed to the Muslims in Cologne last
year, the archbishop drew attention to the challenges that Christians
and Muslims face in common and to which they are called to give an
Among these, in the first place is terrorism, to fight which we must
succeed "in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancor, in resisting
every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of
violence." Archbishop Celata then stressed the importance of
collaboration between Christians and Muslims to safeguard the values
pertaining to the dignity of the human person, such as religious
freedom, mutual respect, solidarity and peace. Referring subsequently
to tensions inherited from the past, the secretary of the Pontifical
Council for Interreligious Dialogue called on everyone to make the
desire expressed by the Holy Father their own, namely to "seek paths of
reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's
Moreover, in the cognitive and moral relativism and immanent secularism
so diffused in our societies today, Archbishop Celata sees a challenge
for both Christians and Muslims to bear witness together to the
transcendent. Furthermore, before the rather widespread difficulty
Muslims have in understanding and living the principle of a sound
"secularity," as well as considering the need for them to be properly
integrated into western society, we, as Christians and citizens "are
called to offer them, through appropriate dialogue and with an attitude
of respectful friendship," the witness of our experience.
On the second day of the plenary session, tackling the theme of
migrations from Islamic majority Countries, the secretary-general of
the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, Monsignor Aldo Giordano,
speaking on behalf of Father Hans Vöcking, M.Afr., who was unable
to attend, described the situation of Muslim immigrants in Europe. They
have in fact greatly increased in number, thus contributing to making
European society multi-religious. The crossroads which Muslims meet in
the European diaspora is that of modernity and postmodernity. Of course
some Muslims have an idea of the way toward "inculturation" in European
society ("enlightened Islam"), but the majority see European culture in
very problematic terms and aspire to go back to the medieval form of
Islam in which there is a strong link between religion, society and
According to Father Vöcking, to find a way to integration, it is
important to guarantee religious freedom, independence from foreign
funding, setting up structures for the training of leaders, attention
to civic education, democracy and human rights, dialogue between
religions, and also correct information in the mass media. In this way,
he concluded, we would find the way toward an interpretation of Islam
that takes into account values more than laws, personal choice more
than nostalgia for a "golden age."
In Brunei the presence of migrants represents a challenge for the local
Church to express its solidarity in a more tangible and fraternal
manner. Indeed -- the apostolic vicar, Bishop Cornelius Sim, emphasized
-- by responding to their spiritual needs, the Church ensures a service
that is even more necessary than material aid. "Migrant workers find in
the Church a way to serve their fellow Catholics, thus enriching their
mutual experience of being Church," and they also participate in the
cultural and economic advancement of the country.
Professor Stefano Zamagni, president of the International Catholic
Migration Commission, speaking of current reception of a large number
of Muslim refugees, noted instead that they bring with them concepts of
life and religious beliefs that are profoundly different from those of
the local population. He then invited to avoid two obstacles that
impede them from being harmoniously inserted in the social tissue, and
that is, a relativistic syncretism -- according to which all religions
are equal -- and a more or less forced assimilation. He then encouraged
the elaboration of a model of intercultural dialogue that would
respond, also in terms of public resources, in proportion to the degree
of "acceptability" (consequential morals) of their requests.
Archbishop Anselme T. Sanon of Bobo-Dioulasso, in Burkina Faso, who was
unable to be present, sent his paper on the theme of welcoming
Christian refugees in the Western African countries of Islamic
majority. It was read by Bishop Bechara Rai, of Jbeil, in Lebanon. In
his detailed report, Archbishop Sanon pointed out and summarized all
the different situations that the arrival of these refugees connote.
Moreover, emphasizing the important role that the Church is called on
to play in this field, he outlined a series of pastoral responses to be
given. In particular, these include the creation of a chaplaincy for
refugees in the dioceses in an effort to respond to their needs. At the
same time, he called for a responsible commitment on the part of
international institutions and a precious work of awareness-building in
the communication media.
Dr. Michael Galligan-Stierle, assistant secretary for pastoral care in
universities of the episcopal conference of the United States of
America, spoke of foreign (international) students in the USA who come
from Islamic countries. He briefly summarized the history of many
meetings, consultations and joint declarations resulting from dialogue
between Muslims and Catholics, from 1987 onward. He then emphasized the
statistics relating to the 16.3 million university students in his
country, of whom 591,188 are foreign (international) students.
He also outlined some of the main concerns of Muslim students, first
and foremost of which is their need for a place of prayer on the
campus. He enumerated a large number of programs offered to the Muslim
student population, thanks to the responses to a questionnaire sent to
the 1,200 university chaplains. Finally, he recommended that all
pastoral projects for foreign (international) students should be an
expression of respect, dialogue, cultural openness and freedom.
Father Bernard Lapize de Salée, S.J., spoke of the situation of
foreign (international) students in Algeria, whose numbers are growing.
He reported that the Church there considers their presence a big grace
and a marvelous Christian witness in Muslim Algeria. In fact, although
the Muslims are more numerous, many foreign students are Christians,
coming mostly from the French-speaking countries of Western Africa.
These students take an active part in the life of the Church and they
constitute the youngest element in the country's Christian communities.
Moreover, they give the local Church their direct experience with the
Muslim youth of Algeria, with whom they are in close contact in the
university cities. Father Lapize de Salée concluded that it
would be a good thing to have collaboration, or at least contact,
between the Churches in the students' home countries and those of
Maghreb (North Africa) something which already partly exists.
Moving on to itinerancy, from and toward Islamic majority countries,
regarding the question of the Roma [gypsies], Dr. Hannelore Valier of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted that,
excluding India, the majority of them live primarily in Central and
Eastern Europe. Although they are commonly regarded as nomads, they
have in fact settled in European countries for hundreds of years. The
problems they have to face include marginalization, xenophobia and
racism, as well as a low level of education, high rate of unemployment
(50-90%), inadequate health care and very poor housing conditions.
In spite of all this, the determination to survive has been the force
guiding the Roma over the centuries. The international community is, at
any rate, working to improve their social integration, while respecting
their cultural identity, on the basis of fair treatment. It is
therefore necessary to reinforce the maturity of our democratic
societies and their ability to understand and respect the social,
cultural and religious diversity of gypsies.
For the Apostleship of the Sea, Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez Martos of
Barcelona, Spain, specified that this pastoral care offers essentially
the same services to all seamen, whatever may be their religion.
Statistics indicate that 18% of merchant seamen, that is, some 200,000
persons, are Muslims. Generally speaking they are very religious and
practicing. Anyway, Muslims do not ask for spiritual assistance from
Christians, and if this is offered to them (for example, putting them
in contact with a mosque) they usually decline.
Nevertheless, they appreciate material help -- when necessary -- and
witnesses of charity and friendship. In the last decade, the
Apostleship of the Sea has sought collaboration with the mosques in
Barcelona, but failed. Recently, however, the Islamic Council of the
City showed that it was in favor of a collaboration by which the
Apostleship of the Sea directs Muslim seamen asking for religious
assistance to their local community.
For his part, Father Xavier Pinto, C.Ss.R., national director of the
Apostleship of the Sea in India, declared that 70% of the seafarers who
visit the Stella Maris centers there are from the Philippines, while
the greater part of the remaining 30% is composed of seamen from India,
Bangladesh and Pakistan (in that order). According to the speaker, for
many Muslims, Jesus is an example of holiness and piety, who lived the
true Islam. This would be the starting point allowing to interact with
Muslims and work together with them. He added that to be able to carry
out pastoral care of seafarers on board ship and in port, it is
necessary first of all to respect the laws of the host country and to
succeed in integrating the Apostleship of the Sea in the general
pastoral work of the local Church, also in countries with Islamic
Sister Patricia Ebegbulem, SSL, speaking of assistance to Nigerian
"women of the street," both at home and in foreign countries, stated
that the majority of these women come to the sad trade of selling their
bodies for reasons of poverty and discrimination. The Catholic Church
is at the forefront in the rehabilitation and promotion of the dignity
of women and of womanhood (with citations from Pope John Paul II, in
his apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa," 121). Sister Patricia
proposed that the year 2010 be declared the Year of Women's Dignity and
invited all those who were present to support her proposal.
Father Martin McDermott, S.J., referring to the Lebanon, stated that
there are at present two types of "women of the street" in the country:
former domestic workers, at the mercy of their "protectors," whether
Muslim or Christian, and the so-called artists. In theory, prostitution
is prohibited, but in practice it is regulated. Once these women arrive
in Lebanon, they find it impossible to change their way of life and
even to move about freely in the country. There is a mechanism which
deprives them of their rights, their documents and therefore of freedom.
In her address, Mrs. Thérèse Farra, Lebanese, indicated
the so-called shared pilgrimages -- that is, carried out together -- by
Christians and Muslims as an opportunity to form lasting friendships
and establish a network of constructive relationships. The "Darb
Maryam" (Way of Mary) organization that is active in this field,
intends to offer opportunities for meetings where the "dialogue of
life" can be practiced and encourage the search for common values. The
participants thus discover the religion of the others, as they walk and
pray for peace together, side by side, seeking to build it among
themselves and spread it to those around them.
Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, the delegate administrator of the Opera
Romana Pellegrinaggi, looked at the question of Catholic pilgrimages in
countries of Islamic majority. He pointed out that meetings with
Muslims are fairly frequent at various stages of these pilgrimages. On
such occasions, conversation, dialogue and sometimes discussion take
place. These, however, do not make religious positions or ideas come
closer to each other, owing to deeply rooted convictions. It is also
possible, rather it is the duty of Christians to rediscover their own
identity during pilgrimages, that is, that they are disciples of Jesus
Christ and are committed to "mission ad Gentes." Certainly the
archetype of going on pilgrimage is in going out in search of the face
of Christ in one's brothers and sisters.
Finally, in the field of Civil Aviation apostolate, Father Paschal
Ryan, chaplain of Heathrow Airport, in London, noted that, due to
globalization, airports have also become crossroads of contemporary
civilization. They reflect not only their local community, but also the
global community. Airports are places of transit for many believers of
different religions, who travel for religious reasons, since the idea
of pilgrimage is common to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and
others. Moreover, in Islam, the believer is indeed exhorted to travel
to the shrines associated with the prophet Mohammed, at least once in
Moreover, at Heathrow Airport, there are 65,000 to 70,000 people of
different religions who work there. Certainly, the characteristic of
airports lies in the transitory nature of many interpersonal
encounters, since millions of passengers pass through them rapidly each
year. In spite of this, such an unusual situation permits a meeting
with the stranger, and an understanding of how contacts between
Christians and believers of other religions can lead to fruitful
collaboration. Moreover, seeing men and women of different religions,
races and social classes working together or sharing the same
multi-religious place of prayer, one can imagine how the world could
be, or rather ought to be.
On the closing day of the plenary session, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo,
secretary for state relations of the Secretariat of State, affirmed
that, despite fears and hesitations, a careful and transparent
management of migration could be beneficial both to the countries of
origin and destination. He thus faced a topic that is being discussed
in various European nations that are afraid to open their territories,
but are, at the same time, in chronic need of young, flexible and cheap
manpower, whose employment seems to have limited negative effects on
the employment of local workers.
The archbishop said, "The Church, in conformity with the catholic
nature of its mission and its preferential option for the poor, is in
favor of affirming the right to emigrate and of safeguarding the rights
of migrants. This, however, does not relieve politicians of the serious
responsibility to regulate the number and the form of migration flows,
such that immigrants would feel a human welcome, with dignity. In this
way, the population of the host country would not be placed in a
condition that would objectively make them favorable to rejection, with
negative consequences not only for the immigrants but also for the
human culture of the host population and for the relations between
Noting that for various people coming from countries of Islamic
majority, religion constitutes an element of one's profound identity,
the archbishop reaffirmed the necessity for a scrupulous and reciprocal
respect of religious freedom, which means defense of minorities and
their human rights. Archbishop Lajolo observed, "Though on many sides
there are calls at least for reciprocity in respect and in concessions
(freedom of worship, construction of places of worship …), yet, among
many states in various continents, this concept [of reciprocity], at
present, seems to exclude religious matters for a large number of
Muslim countries, which demand for their citizens all those rights that
they, on their part, do not recognize for migrants of other religions
present in their territory."
According to Archbishop Lajolo, the Holy See will continue to declare
its firm opposition to any attempt to use religion as a justification
for terrorism and violence. Lastly, the secretary for state relations
mentioned the delicate question of the protection of Christians in
countries of Islamic majority. The lack of such protection in some
countries is [prompting] thousands of the Catholic faithful to leave
Finally, the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of
Peoples, Archbishop Robert Sarah, traced a profile of those migrants
who come from sub-Saharan Africa. After that, he explained that the
reasons for their exodus are linked to history, the sociopolitical
situation, dramatic situations of insecurity and war, economic
conditions and cultural phenomena such as globalization. Then,
following civil wars in some countries, more than 4 million people have
Archbishop Sarah then explained that the chronic state of poverty and
insecurity, which has made the African continent prone to permanent
underdevelopment, has a negative influence on people and institutions,
reduces foreign investments and is an incentive to criminality, and so
on. Describing the itinerary followed by migrants to reach the Maghreb,
the archbishop defined as a real "via crucis" the tragedy experienced
by these people, who are treated in a humiliating and inhuman manner on
After outlining the major problems that migrants have to face, he
offered some solutions and prospects. "The Church, particularly that in
Africa, has a duty to take on more and more fully the role of the good
Samaritan." Christians, on their part, are called upon to carry out
their role with respect to immigrants and refugees transparently and
with dedication. The episcopal conferences in both the countries of
origin and arrival could make their contribution by informing, helping
and accompanying all those who wish to migrate legally. Particular
attention should be given to assistance in integration, with due
respect for culture, religion and fundamental human values. Archbishop
Sarah then called for an encouragement of social, intercultural and
also interreligious dialogue.
At the end of the aforementioned talks, the participants in the plenary
session discussed the theme proposed to them this year in view of the
formulation of some conclusions and recommendations and approved the
[Translation issued by Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers;