Vatican releases guidelines for intercultural ministry for migrants

Pope Francis has added his voice to new Vatican guidelines on providing an intercultural ministry for migrants.

The guidelines “invite us to broaden the way that we experience being church,” Francis wrote in the preface to the “Pastoral Orientations on Intercultural Migrant Ministry”.

Developed by the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the guidelines offer a wide look at the situation migrants and refugees find themselves in.

They “urge us to see the tragedy of prolonged uprootedness, to welcome, protect, integrate and promote our brothers and sisters, and to create opportunities to work together toward communion,” Francis wrote.

On 24 March the Vatican released the 35-page document in English, Spanish and Italian on its website

It also released a companion 20-page booklet providing “good practices undertaken by Catholic organisations and religious congregations” around the world, showing effective examples of putting the pastoral guidelines into practice.

“In times of greatest crisis, like the pandemic and the wars that we are currently experiencing, closed-minded and aggressive nationalism and radical individualism fracture or divide our unity, both in the world and within the church,” Francis wrote.

“The highest price is paid by those who end up getting labeled as ‘them’ versus ‘us’: foreigners, migrants and the marginalised who inhabit the existential peripheries.”

He added: Jesus says “every encounter with a refugee or migrant is an opportunity to encounter Him. His Holy Spirit makes us capable of embracing everyone, cultivating communion in diversity and harmonising differences without ever imposing a depersonalised uniformity.”

Catholic communities are invited to experience Francis’s idea of “an ever wider ‘we,'” which refers both to the entire human family and to the church.

“Newcomers challenge us to rethink the parish: not modelled on a village where everybody knows each other and newcomers are seen as a new addition from outside, but toward a church on the move, always open to welcome others,” the guidelines say.

“It is not a question of assimilation but rather an enrichment and a path toward transformation of all members of the community; for those arriving in a country should not feel like second-class citizens but rather as part of the community, a unique ‘we’ as full members of the Church.”

The intercultural ministry guidelines anticipate challenges communities may be facing with concrete suggestions and guidance for action. They say these can be articulated by four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

“It is not a case of implementing welfare programmes from the top down, but rather of undertaking a journey together” to build communities and nations that can preserve their respective cultural and religious identity, and “are open to differences and know how to promote them in the spirit of human fraternity,” it said, quoting Pope Francis.

“Growing in freedom from all fear, particularly fears based on misguided perceptions,” it said, “Catholic communities are called to build bridges with newcomers, promoting a real ‘culture of encounter.'”

“We sincerely hope that this booklet helps its readers to truly become builders of bridges, drawn to deepen their awareness, through experience, of the richness that the presence of migrants and refugees bring into our communities.”


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