What the Catholic Church teaches about asylum and migration – Catholic Outlook

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On September 26, 2021, the Catholic Church around the world celebrates World Migrants and Refugees Day (also known as Migrant and Refugee Sunday). Pope Francis invites us to work Towards an ever wider “us” and embrace the resilience and contribution of migrants and refugees to church and society.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35)

The Holy Family in exile

The Holy Family exiled from Nazareth, fleeing to Egypt, is the archetype of any refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are for all times and all places, models and protectors of all migrants, pilgrims and refugees of any kind who, forced by fear of persecution or by need, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents. and relatives, their close friends, and to seek foreign soil.[I]

For God has decreed that his only begotten Son should know the trials and sorrow of exile. The firstborn among many of our brothers and sisters, and to precede them in him.[ii]

For this reason, the Catholic Church seeks to treat and treat refugees and migrants in their trials and to welcome the stranger who knocks on our door in search of refuge.[iii]

Welcome abroad

Jesus identifies himself as a stranger to be welcomed (Matthew 25:35). The Catholic Church teaches that Christ is in some way united to each person (cf. CCC 618), whether one is aware of it or not. Christ will consider as done to himself the kind of treatment reserved to every human person, in particular, to the least of them, the stranger (cf. EMCC 15).[iv]

While the gospel compels us to welcome strangers, it also presents the opportunity to practice the commandment to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” and to to love the other “as you love yourselves” Mark 12: 29-31.

Pope Saint John Paul II invites us to become increasingly aware of the mission of the Catholic Church:

“Seeing Christ in every brother and sister in need, proclaiming and defending the dignity of every migrant, every displaced person and every refugee. Thus, the help given will not be considered as an alms of the goodness of our heart, but as an act of justice which is due to them ”.[v]

Healing a global wound

The Catholic Church teaches that everyone has the right to live a life of dignity in their homeland.[vi]Tragically, more than 45 million people around the world are displaced.[vii]This festering wound characterizes and reveals the imbalances and conflicts of the modern world.[viii]War, natural calamities, persecution and discrimination of all kinds have deprived millions of people of their homes, jobs, families and homelands.[ix]

The right to seek asylum

The Catholic Church teaches that everyone whose life is threatened has the right to protection.[x]Whether due to persecution, armed conflict, natural disasters or economic conditions that threaten their lives or their physical integrity. It is the element of persecution, threat or danger, or being forcibly displaced that gives rise to a right to seek asylum rather than to migrate through ordinary channels.[xi]

Human dignity

The Catholic Church teaches that human life is sacred because each person is created in the image and likeness of God.[xii]Human dignity is inalienable.[xiii]The human dignity and human rights of asylum seekers must be respected, regardless of their nationality, visa status or mode of arrival.[xiv]

The Catholic Church teaches that the demands of human dignity always come before the national interest [xv]

Devotion to humanity

The Catholic Church teaches that all nations have the right to regulate migration across their borders.[xvi]With this right comes the duty to protect and assist innocent victims and those who flee for their lives.[xvii]The right of nations to regulate their borders is an extension of the right of everyone to live a life of dignity in their community. Borders are intended for the protection of people, not to the exclusion of people seeking protection.[xviii]

Justice and mercy

The Catholic Church teaches that the purpose of the law is to serve justice and mercy (cf. Matthew 23:23). Laws that subject asylum seekers to arbitrary and prolonged immigration detention or prohibit them from seeking protection, violate justice and mercy and are immoral. It is not illegal to seek asylum.[xix]Many asylum seekers are survivors of crime, torture and trauma. Detention for an indefinite period adds even more stress and suffering, which has an impact on their mental and physical health. The Catholic Church advocates the establishment of fair and rapid procedures to determine the request for protection of each.

Solidarity

The Catholic Church teaches that the most vulnerable are not just those in need to whom we kindly offer an act of solidarity, but are the members of our family with whom we have a duty to share the resources with which we have. Solidarity with migrants and refugees is part of the common membership of the human family.[xx]

The right to be part of a community

The Catholic Church teaches that everyone has the right to be part of a community.[xxi]Asylum seekers who have been forced to leave their country of origin have a duty to integrate into the host community. We must promote this integration by helping migrants find a place where they can live in peace and security, where they can work and assume the rights and duties that exist in the host country.[xxii]

Just as you did to one of the least of my family, you did to me (Matthew 25:40)

This article is a compilation of Catholic social doctrine on migration and asylum from various sources. Find more information and resources at migrants-refugees.va and acmro.catholic.org.au.

With thanks to the Australian Catholic Bureau for Migrants and Refugees.

The references

[i]Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII Exsul Familia Nazarethana (The Holy Family in exile), August 1, 1952, Introduction. [ii]ibid. [iii]ibid. [iv]Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, Pastoral Orientations Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Displaced Persons and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Vatican City, 2013, N 14. [v]ibid, 14 years old, JEAN-PAUL II, Address to participants at the CICM Council Assembly, November 12, 2001, nos. 2-3: WHERE, English weekly edition, November 21, 2001, 4. [vi]“No one would exchange their country for a foreign land if their own offered them the means to live a decent and happy life” (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum [On Capital and Labor] [May 15, 1891], no. 47. Extract from the Vatican website: www.vatican.va). Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII Exsul Familia Nazarethana (The Holy Family in exile), August 1, 1952. Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) (April 11, 1963) (Washington, DC: USCCB, 1963), no. 25. [vii]UNHCR Global Trends Report 2012. [viii]Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On social concern) (December 30, 1987) (Washington, DC: USCCB, 1988), no. 24. [ix]ibid [x]Pope John Paul II, Migration for Peace, Message, For the 1990se World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2004. [xi]Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, Pastoral Orientations Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Displaced Persons and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Vatican City, 2013, N 61. [xii]Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2005, n 108. [xiii]Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2005, n 105. [xiv]Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, Pastoral Orientations Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Displaced Persons and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Vatican City, 2013, N 60-61. [xv]Welcoming Christ to refugees and forcibly displaced persons, Pastoral Orientations Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Displaced Persons and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Vatican City, 2013, N 14. (see Refugees: a challenge to Solidarity, Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care for Migrants and People on the Move and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Vatican City 1992, n 9.) Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2005, n 106-7. [xvi]Pope Benedict XVI, A human family, Message 97e World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2011. [xvii]Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2005, n 504-5. [xviii]Reception of Christ in refugees and forcibly displaced persons, Pastoral Orientations Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Displaced Persons and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Vatican City, 2013, N 57 and Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) (April 11, 1963) (Washington, DC: USCCB, 1963), no. 103-6. [xix]Pope John Paul II, Migration for Peace, Message, For the 1990se World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2004. [xx]Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, Pastoral Orientations Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Displaced Persons and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Vatican City, 2013, N 10. [xxi]Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2005, n 149. [xxii]Pope Benedict XVI, A human family, Message 97e World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2011.


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