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Pastoral care of migrants, a mission close to the heart of the Church

National Commission for Migrants of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) discussed “The Pastoral Care of the migrants in the Multicultural context of India: A synodal way.”

 The two-day conference of the secretaries of regional and diocesan commissions was held at ‘Paalana’ Pastoral Centre, Bangalore on March 12-14.

Msgr. Fabio Baggio, the Undersecretary of the Vatican Dicastery of Integral Human Development, Ms Christine Nathan, President of the International Catholic Migration Commission, and Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur, the chairman of the commission were also present.

The National meeting decided to reach out pastorally to the migrants in a more synodal way to make them self-reliant and have sustainable living conditions. 

Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur, the chairman of the commission, was deeply concerned about the situation of all the migrants and emphasized interreligious dialogue to address the issues in a collective manner.

Msgr. Fabio Baggio, the Undersecretary of the Vatican Dicastery of Integral Human Development, reiterated the expectations and desire of Pope Francis regarding the synodal church which is participatory and in communion with all the faithful for a mission to reach out to the neediest and the people in the peripheries.

He urged the church leaders to be sensitive to the problems and struggles of the distressed migrant workers in India who are much more ruined and devastated due to the aftereffects of the pandemic and economic slowdown in our country.

Ms Christine Nathan, President of the International Catholic Migration Commission in Geneva, pointed out that there is widespread discrimination and division in the local church, where the migrants are perceived as outsiders and not welcomed wholeheartedly.

Emphasizing the need to consider the migrants as human beings without referring to their colour, creed and religious affiliations, Christine invited the local church in the destinations to an act of self-introspection and renewal to find the face of Jesus in the migrant brother and sister who are coming to a new place in search of livelihood to eke out their livelihood.

Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore called for the greater role of the religious working in every diocese in the migrants’ ministry as they can play a better role in caring for the migrants.

The conference suggested that the priority of the church should be to save the life and safeguard the human dignity of the migrants. By welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating them into the mainstream of society, the migrants and displaced should be made to feel that they are one of them and they live in dignity and freedom.

For this, they resolved to take up effectively and translate the pastoral orientations and teachings of Pope Francis into different programs of Church life.

Regional secretaries in collaboration with their diocesan counterparts will chalk out plans where migrants will be part of the decision-making for their programmes for their empowerment. A good Samaritan attitude must be fostered in institutions and among individuals.

Father Jaison Vadassery, the Executive Secretary, along with the secretaries of 14 regions further decided that every diocese should start a migrant cell where minimum services for the migrants will be available. 

Periodical coming together and deliberating will be part of the regional commissions’ plans for the future.

As the origin states of migrants expressed the various exploitations like wage theft, human trafficking and bonded labour are on the rise, it needs to be addressed and tackled.  

For this, networking between different dioceses in the source and destinations and the religious congregations and civil society organizations will help to coordinate the work and organize it more effectively.

It was also thought necessary to empower the migrants themselves so that they become agents to reach out to the other migrants in distress and who are also in danger of their lives and under the threat of evils like human trafficking and bonded labour and slavery.

The ministry to migrants is not just another activity for the church it is a mission very close to the heart and call of the Church, ‘I was a stranger you welcome me’ (Mathew 25). - With inputs from Sr. Rani Punnasseril HCM (Program Manager of the Commission)


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