[…] It is likewise important that the many refugees who have found shelter and
refuge in neighbouring countries, especially in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, be able
to return home. The commitment and efforts made by these countries in this difficult
situation deserve the appreciation and support of the entire international community,
which is also called upon to create the conditions for the repatriation of Syrian
refugees. This effort must concretely start with Lebanon, so that that beloved country
can continue to be a “message” of respect and coexistence, and a model to imitate,
for the whole region and for the entire world. […]
At the same time, we cannot forget the situation of families torn apart by poverty,
war and migration. All too often, we see with our own eyes the tragedy of children
who, unaccompanied, cross the borders between the south and the north of our
world, and often fall victim to human trafficking.
Today there is much talk about migrants and migration, at times only for the sake of
stirring up primal fears. It must not be forgotten that migration has always existed.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the history of salvation is essentially a history of
migration. Nor should we forget that freedom of movement, for example, the ability
to leave one’s own country and to return there, is a fundamental human
right.There is a need, then, to abandon the familiar rhetoric and start from the
essential consideration that we are dealing, above all, with persons.
This is what I sought to reiterate in my Message for the World Day of Peace celebrated
on 1 January last, whose theme this year is: “Migrants and Refugees: Men and
Women in Search of Peace”. While acknowledging that not everyone is always guided
by the best of intentions, we must not forget that the majority of migrants would
prefer to remain in their homeland. Instead, they find themselves “forced by
discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation” to leave it
behind… “Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance
and good will, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of
new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to
say nothing of resources, which are always limited. By practising the virtue of
prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote,
protect, integrate and, ‘within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the
common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society’ (Pacem in Terris,
57). Leaders have a clear responsibility towards their own communities, whose
legitimate rights and harmonious development they must ensure, lest they become
like the rash builder who miscalculated and failed to complete the tower he had begun
to construct” (cf. Lk 14:28-30).
I would like once more to thank the authorities of those states who have spared no
effort in recent years to assist the many migrants arriving at their borders. I think
above all of the efforts made by more than a few countries in Asia, Africa and the
Americas that welcome and assist numerous persons. I cherish vivid memories of
my meeting in Dhaka with some members of the Rohingya people, and I renew my
sentiments of gratitude to the Bangladeshi authorities for the assistance provided to
them on their own territory.
I would also like to express particular gratitude to Italy, which in these years has
shown an open and generous heart and offered positive examples of integration. It
is my hope that the difficulties that the country has experienced in these years, and
whose effects are still felt, will not lead to forms of refusal and obstruction, but
instead to a rediscovery of those roots and traditions that have nourished the rich
history of the nation and constitute a priceless treasure offered to the whole world.
I likewise express my appreciation for the efforts made by other European states,
particularly Greece and Germany. Nor must it be forgotten that many refugees and
migrants seek to reach Europe because they know that there they will find peace and
security, which for that matter are the fruit of a lengthy process born of the ideals of
the Founding Fathers of the European project in the aftermath of the Second World
War. Europe should be proud of this legacy, grounded on certain principles and a
vision of man rooted in its millenary history, inspired by the Christian conception of
the human person. The arrival of migrants should spur Europe to recover its cultural
and religious heritage, so that, with a renewed consciousness of the values on which
the continent was built, it can keep alive her own tradition while continuing to be a
place of welcome, a herald of peace and of development.
In the past year, governments, international organizations and civil society have
engaged in discussions about the basic principles, priorities and most suitable means
for responding to movements of migration and the enduring situations involving
refugees. The United Nations, following the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees
and Migrants, has initiated important preparations for the adoption of the two Global
Compacts for refugees and for safe, orderly and regular migration respectively.
The Holy See trusts that these efforts, with the negotiations soon to begin, will lead
to results worthy of a world community growing ever more independent and
grounded in the principles of solidarity and mutual assistance. In the current
international situation, ways and means are not lacking to ensure that every man
and every woman on earth can enjoy living conditions worthy of the human person.
In the Message for this year’s World Day of Peace, I suggested four “mileposts” for
action: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating. I would like to dwell
particularly on the last of these, which has given rise to various opposed positions in
the light of varying evaluations, experiences, concerns and convictions. Integration
is a “two-way process”, entailing reciprocal rights and duties. Those who welcome
are called to promote integral human development, while those who are welcomed
must necessarily conform to the rules of the country offering them hospitality, with
respect for its identity and values. Processes of integration must always keep the
protection and advancement of persons, especially those in situations of vulnerability,
at the centre of the rules governing various aspects of political and social life.
The Holy See has no intention of interfering in decisions that fall to states, which, in
the light of their respective political, social and economic situations, and their
capacities and possibilities for receiving and integrating, have the primary
responsibility for accepting newcomers. Nonetheless, the Holy See does consider it
its role to appeal to the principles of humanity and fraternity at the basis of every
cohesive and harmonious society. In this regard, its interaction with religious
communities, on the level of institutions and associations, should not be forgotten,
since these can play a valuable supportive role in assisting and protecting, in social
and cultural mediation, and in pacification and integration.