Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome you at the conclusion of your Conference on “Initiatives in Refugee and
Migrant Education”. I thank Professor Cernera for his introduction to this meeting.
Your Conference has been planned as a moment of reflection grounded in the needs
of our migrant brothers and sisters, with particular attention to children and young
people. You have heard their desire to pursue their education even though they
have been uprooted from their native lands. I want to encourage you and to
emphasize the importance of your contribution in three areas pertaining to your
competence: the areas of research, teaching and social promotion. For it is not
enough simply to welcome migrants, they must be welcomed, accompanied,
promoted and integrated. Four steps: welcomed, accompanied, promoted and
As for research, I see the need for further studies on the so-called “right not to
emigrate”. It is important to reflect on the causes of migratory movements and on
the forms of violence that lead people to depart for other countries. Naturally, I am
referring to the conflicts that are ravaging so many regions of our world. At the
same time, though, I would like to point to another kind of violence, namely, the
abuse of our common home. The earth has been devastated by the excessive
exploitation of its resources and by decades of pollution. As a result, more and
more people are forced to leave their lands, which have become uninhabitable.
Academia – and Catholic academia in particular – is called to play a primary role in
providing answers to ecological problems and challenges. Based on scientific data,
you are in a position to help in guiding and informing the decisions of government
leaders in support of an effective care for our common home.
As for the area of teaching, I express my appreciation for your commitment to
establishing educational programmes that benefit refugees. Much has already been
accomplished, yet much more remains to be done. In this regard, priority must
continue to be given to the most disadvantaged. One effective way of doing this is
to offer courses that respond to their needs, the organization of programmes of
distance learning, and the provision of scholarships to permit their resettlement. By
drawing upon the resources of the international network of academic institutions,
universities can also facilitate the recognition of the degrees and professional
qualifications of migrants and refugees, for the good of the latter and that of the
societies that receive them.
Schools and universities are privileged environments not only for instruction but
also for encounter and integration. “We can grow in our common humanity and
build together an ever greater sense of togetherness. Openness to one another
creates spaces of fruitful exchange between different visions and traditions, and
opens minds to new horizons” (Message for the 2022 World Day of Migrants and
Refugees). In order to respond adequately to the new challenges posed by
migration, there is a need to offer specific professional training to the personnel and
teachers who work with migrants and refugees. Catholic institutions of higher
learning are called to educate their own students, who will be tomorrow’s
administrators, entrepreneurs and cultural leaders, to a clearer understanding of
the phenomenon of migration, within a perspective of justice, global responsibility
and communion in diversity. Opportunities for meaningful encounters are to be
promoted, so that teachers and students can have an opportunity to hear the
stories of those men and women who are migrants, refugees, displaced persons or
victims of trafficking.
In the area of social promotion, universities represent an institution that interacts
with the social context in which they happen to operate. They can help to identify
and indicate the foundations for the construction of an intercultural society, in which
ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity is seen as a source of enrichment and not
an obstacle for the common future. In addition, universities represent a privileged
setting for encouraging young people to engage in volunteer work on behalf of
refugees, asylum seekers and the more vulnerable migrants.
On the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, celebrated last Sunday,
I encouraged everyone to work together with migrants to build a better future.
Indeed, “history teaches us that the contribution of migrants and refugees has been
fundamental to the social and economic growth of our societies. This continues to
be true in our own day. Their work, their youth, their enthusiasm and their
willingness to sacrifice enrich the communities that receive them. Yet this
contribution could be all the greater if it were optimized and supported by carefully
developed programmes and initiatives. Enormous potential exists, ready to be
harnessed, if only it is given the chance” (ibid.).
Dear friends, the work that you are carrying out in these three great areas –
research, teaching and social promotion – can be guided by the four words that
encapsulate the Church’s efforts on behalf of migrants and refugees: welcome,
protect or accompany, promote and integrate. Every educational institution is
called to be a place of welcome, protection or accompaniment, promotion and
integration for all, to the exclusion of none.
I thank you for your work and I encourage you to persevere in your efforts. From
the heart, I bless each of you and all your co-workers. And I ask you, please, to
pray for me. Thank you.