Pope Francis said on Friday that the desire to migrate from one’s homeland is inspired by the search for hope, and encouraged the Church throughout the world to welcome migrants, whose presence helps build up society. “Notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, migration is still an aspiration to hope,” the Pope told participants in the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants on Nov. 21. In his speech for the Nov. 17-21 congress, which focused on the dynamics of cooperation and development in the pastoral care of migrants, the Pope noted how many persons who live in troubled areas leave in search of a better life for their families at the risk of disappointment and failure. This is caused in large part by the economic crisis currently effecting every country, he said, which includes factors such as “inequality, poverty, overpopulation, the growing need for employment in some sectors of the global job market, disasters caused by climate change, wars and persecution, and the desire of younger people to relocate as they seek new opportunities.” Despite the challenges involved in migration, the phenomenon has the capacity to improve both the migrant’s native country as well as the one they traveled to from an economic standpoint, the Roman Pontiff noted. “In effect, receiving nations draw advantages from employing immigrants for production needs and national prosperity, not infrequently filling gaps created by the demographic crisis,” he said. At the same time, the nations which migrants leave “show a certain reduction in unemployment and, above all, benefit from earnings which are then sent back to meet the needs of families which remain in the country.” Among the challenges that migrant families face are the effects on children who have grown up without one or both of their parents, the tension on marriages due to long absences of spouses, as well as the difficulty of integrating into a new society, the Pope observed. He noted how pastoral work in these situations plays a key role in helping cultural dialogue and as well as with legal issues on the part of the migrant, and helps lessen the repercussions on families living without a spouse or parent in the country of origin. Pope Francis explained that “sadly migrants often experience disappointment, distress, loneliness and marginalization” due to the fact that they are both uprooted from their home and need to integrate. The Church, he said, is a community that seeks to engage and welcome migrants, and encouraged parishes to promote pastoral plans that both evangelize and support migrants throughout their journey from their country of origin to the receiving country. “The Church also seeks to be a source of hope,” the Bishop of Rome explained, noting how she develops programs of education, defends migrants’ rights and “offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may be treated as children of God.” He spoke of the need to adopt an “integrated perspective” when encountering migrants, which is capable of seeing and valuing their potential, rather that viewing them “as a problem to be confronted and resolved.” In order to fully develop each person must be assured of their ability to participate in the life of a community, Pope Francis observed, adding that this is even more important in a Christian community, where strangers do not exist. “Beyond being a community of the faithful that sees the face of Jesus Christ in its neighbor, (the Church) is a Mother without limits and without frontiers,” he said, noting how she constantly strives to build a culture of solidarity “where no one is considered useless, out of place or disposable.” While migrants are capable of expanding the bounds of fraternity, their presence is also a reminder of the ongoing need to fight inequality, injustice and various abuses, the Roman Pontiff continued. He concluded his speech by praying for the protection of the Holy Family, “who themselves experienced the difficulty of exile in Egypt.”
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