Summit on World's Immigrants Is Planned

Called by Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See has called a summit of Catholic representatives in an effort to give adequate pastoral care to the world's 175 million immigrants and, in particular, to 16 million refugees.



Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, presented plans for the 5th World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, to be held in Rome from Nov. 17-22.

The theme of the meeting, at the Augustinianum Patristic Institute, is "To Start Afresh from Christ -- For the Renewed Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees." It will gather experts and Church representatives from around the world, as well as officials from religious congregations, ecclesial movements and lay associations.

Fraternal delegates representing the Anglican Communion, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the World Lutheran Federation, and the World Council of Churches, are also expected to attend.

At a press conference today, Cardinal Hamao said that his council hopes to "formulate some adequate answers to the challenges before us."

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, council secretary, translated these challenges into numbers.

According to the International Organization for Migration, "immigrants" -- a tough term to define precisely -- total about 175 million in the world.

The archbishop added that, according to this source, there are between 700,000 and 2 million women and children who are the object of traffic every year across international borders.

"Moreover, it is estimated that every year some 500,000 people enter illegally into the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, while in the European Union, the figure oscillates between 120,000 and 500,000 a year," Archbishop Marchetto added.

The illicit "trade" in immigrants generates billions of dollars, he lamented.

Father Michael Blume, undersecretary of the pontifical council, said that there "are 12 million refugees under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and another 4 million under the United Nations Relief and Aid Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East."

"If the pastoral care of refugees can assume different forms, according to the circumstances, its starting point should always be the comprehension of a situation in all its dimensions -- personal, social, economic, political -- in the light of the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Church," the priest said.