Why caring for people on the move is an integral part of how we live out our faith.

Love the Stranger

Caring for people on the move has always been an important aspect of how we live out our faith. As Pope Pius XII reflected in Exsul Familia Nazarethana: “there never has been a period during which the Church has not been active on behalf of migrants, exiles and refugees.”1 Today there are over 280 million migrants and refugees worldwide,2 more than at any point in history. Quoting the Gospel of St. Matthew, Pope Francis calls on us to respond by welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating people, with the reminder that: “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43).”3 

This document outlines Catholic social teaching on migrants and refugees. It then draws upon that teaching to highlight some specific principles that the Church in England and Wales can apply when engaging with the contemporary political and social context. It is intended to complement the documents produced by the Vatican Migrants and Refugees Section for use by the Universal Church, including the pastoral action points on responding to migrants and refugees, as well as the pastoral orientations on refugees and forcibly displaced persons, human trafficking, internally displaced people, climate displaced people, and intercultural migrant ministry.4 

Throughout, the document is rooted in our calling to uphold the sanctity of life and human dignity. This was reflected by the Bishops of England and Wales in our resolution on migrants and refugees in May 2022, which emphasised the “fundamental principle of the dignity of every person, created in the image and likeness of God.”5

We are publishing Love the Stranger at a time when these issues are once again being discussed widely in the political sphere and in the media. It offers a framework which we hope will help those involved in politics, including voters, as they consider public policy. Of course, our response to migrants and refugees is not solely a question of policy. It is incumbent on all individuals and institutions to welcome those who come to our country.

Because of our particular history, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has been greatly enriched by those migrating from other countries throughout the ages, and it is a blessing that this process of enrichment has continued in recent years. It is intended that this document will assist our local churches in the process of walking together as one, therefore adding to the significance of our participation in the Universal Church’s synodal process.


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1. Pope Pius XII, Exsul Familia Nazarethana (1952).

2. International Organisation for Migration, World Migration Report (2022).

3. Pope Francis, Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2018).

4. See the ‘Documents’ repository of the Vatican Migrants and Refugees Section.

5. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Plenary Resolution: Migration issues in the UK (9 May 2022).