Pope Stresses Need to Respect Dignity of Migrants and Refugees

Greets Participants of Congress on Pastoral Care

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II called for the promotion of "the dignity of man, of the migrant, and of the refugee," and urged nations to adhere to a convention on migrants' rights.



The Pope addressed the participants of the 5th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, whom he received in audience today in the context of the meeting being held in Rome this week with the theme "Starting Afresh from Christ: Toward a Renewed Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees."

The meeting is being held at the Augustinianum Patristic Institute. It was organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, presided over by Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, and has gathered over 300 experts in the pastoral care of migrants, as well as delegates from other Churches and Christian communities.

There are an estimated 175 million migrants in the world, and 40 million refugees who are either abroad or displaced in their own countries.

"The work of promoting the well-being of the many men and women who, for various reasons, do not live in their homelands, represents a vast field for the new evangelization to which the whole Church is called," the Holy Father said.

The Pope reminded his audience that it is "not a matter of inventing a new program. The program already exists: It is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment."

"This is our common proclamation of Christ, which must reach people, mold communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing the Gospel values to bear in society and culture," he said, quoting from his 2001 apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte."

Therefore, it "is precisely in society and culture that we must show respect for the dignity of man, of the migrant, and of the refugee," the Pope continued.

"In this regard, I once again urge states to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, which took effect on July 1, 2003," he said.

The Holy Father also appealed to states "to respect the international treaties concerning refugees."

"Such protection of human persons must be guaranteed in every civil society and espoused by all Christians," the Pontiff concluded.