Celebrating the way in which migrants and refugees enrich our communities.
Love the Stranger
While we acknowledge the challenges and suffering experienced by many migrants and refugees, as Pope Francis explains, it is important to recognise that people are “agents in their own redemption”51 and that furthermore “The arrival of those who are different, coming from other ways of life and cultures, can be a gift, for the stories of migrants are always stories of an encounter”.52
The prominence given to people’s agency and gifts reflects the message of Pope Pius XII that: “If the two parties, those who agree to leave their native land and those who agree to admit the newcomers, remain anxious to eliminate as far as possible all obstacles to the birth and growth of real confidence between the country of emigration and that of immigration, all those affected by such transference of people and places will profit by the transaction. The families will receive a plot of ground which will be native for them in the true sense of the word; the thickly inhabited countries will be relieved and their people will acquire new friends in foreign countries; and the states which receive the emigrants will acquire industrious citizens. In this way, the nations which give and those which receive will both contribute to the increased welfare of man and the progress of human culture.”53 Whilst the language used in this document might seem a little dated, the sentiments are very important. As individuals, as parishes and as a country, we should welcome migrants and refugees into our communities and ensure that they can live flourishing and dignified lives.
By welcoming migrants and refugees and by helping them to build a life in their new country, we are acting in solidarity and taking concrete steps towards creating the universal brotherhood of man that the Catholic Church so desires. In policy terms this necessitates providing people with clear routes to citizenship and giving those without a regular migration status the opportunity to regularise it.
We must also go beyond these procedural matters. The Vatican Migrants and Refugees Section has summarised the contributions of migrants to the life of the receiving country, noting: “People on the move bring along with them a great potential that is social, economic, cultural, human, and religious. The presence of migrants and refugees empowers every dimension of integral human development and offers our society an opportunity to become more intercultural and grow in humanity.”54
Pope John Paul II explained that the integration of migrants and refugees makes our communities “more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings.”55 This is affirmed by the Vatican’s position that: “Contemporary migrations, especially those involving a great number of people, promote the encounter of races and peoples, and the construction of societies that are culturally diverse, able to live out communion in diversity, which is the objective of God’s plan for humanity. The shift taking place from monocultural to multicultural societies can be a sign of the living presence of God in history and in the community of humankind, for it offers a providential opportunity for the fulfilment of God’s plan for a universal communion.”56
We hope that all the Catholic faithful will recognise that migrants and refugees enrich our culture and parish life. Pope Francis has reflected on the gifts that people arriving from elsewhere bring directly to our parishes: “the arrival of Catholic migrants and refugees can energize the ecclesial life of the communities that welcome them. Often, they bring an enthusiasm that can revitalize our communities and enliven our celebrations. Sharing different expressions of faith and devotions offers us a privileged opportunity for experiencing more fully the catholicity of the People of God.”57
There are also economic benefits to a country that welcomes migration, including migrants and refugees developing businesses and becoming employers themselves, though we should not reduce this issue simply to a form of economic calculus. These economic benefits are highlighted in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “Immigration can be a resource for development rather than an obstacle to it… These people come from less privileged areas of the earth and their arrival in developed countries is often perceived as a threat to the high levels of well-being achieved thanks to decades of economic growth. In most cases, however, immigrants fill a labour need which would otherwise remain unfilled”.58
At the same time, the Compendium emphasises that the dignity of migrant workers must be respected: “Institutions in host countries must keep careful watch to prevent the spread of the temptation to exploit foreign labourers, denying them the same rights enjoyed by nationals, rights that are to be guaranteed to all without discrimination.”59 Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted that “these labourers cannot be considered as a commodity or a mere workforce. They must not, therefore, be treated like any other factor of production. Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance.”60
55. Pope John Paul II, Message for the 91st World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2005).
57. Pope Francis, Message for the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2022).