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At the end of today’s general audience Pope Benedict XVI launched an appeal “for the dramatic situation currently being experienced in Haiti.”
“My thoughts go in particular to the population hit just a few hours ago by a devastating earthquake which has caused serious loss of human life, large numbers of homeless and missing people, and vast material damage.
“I invite everyone to join my prayers to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who mourn their loss. I give assurances of my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to everyone who, in various ways, has been affected by this terrible calamity, imploring God to bring them consolation and relief in their suffering.
“I appeal to the generosity of all people so that these our brothers and sisters who are experiencing a moment of need and suffering may not lack our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community. The Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population.”
“Underage migrants and refugees” is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for the ninety-sixth World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which is due to be celebrated on January 17, 2010.
“The celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees once again gives me the opportunity to express the Church’s constant concern for those who, in different ways, experience emigration. This is a phenomenon which, as I wrote in the Encyclical ‘Caritas in Veritate,’ upsets us due to the number of people involved and the social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it raises on account of the dramatic challenges it poses to both national and international communities. The migrant is a human being who possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance.”
“While the Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that the best interests of minors must always be safeguarded, recognizing their fundamental human rights as equal to the rights of adults, unfortunately this does not always happen in practice. Although there is an increasing public awareness of the need for immediate and incisive action to protect minors, nevertheless, many are left to themselves and, in various ways, face the risk of exploitation.”
“It is my heartfelt hope that proper attention will be given to underage migrants, who need a social environment that enables and fosters their physical, cultural, spiritual and moral development. Living in a foreign land without effective points of reference generates countless and sometimes serious hardships and difficulties for them, especially those deprived of the support of their family.
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At the end of yesterday’s general audience, Pope Benedict XVI remarked upon the current situation in Sri Lanka, six months after the end of the conflict that bloodied the country.
“We note with satisfaction the efforts being made by the authorities over recent weeks, to facilitate the return home of people displaced by the war. I strongly encourage an acceleration in this process and ask all citizens to work towards rapid pacification in full respect for human rights, and towards a just political solution to the challenges still facing the country.
“I trust, moreover, that the international community will strive to meet the humanitarian and economic needs of Sri Lanka, and I raise my prayers to Our Lady of Madhu, that she may continue to watch over that beloved land.”
Meanwhile, about 90,000 Sri Lankans displaced by the conflict between Government forces and Tamil separatists have returned to their homes in the past three months, and the pace of returns has begun to accelerate, the United Nations refugee agency reported.
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During the 6th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said the phenomenon of migration “has assumed immense importance,” noting how “the economic divide between poor countries and industrialized countries is growing ever wider.”
Many people, he said, “are forced to abandon their own lands and communities of origin; willing to accept work in conditions that in no way accord with human dignity,”
“Many migrants abandon their countries to flee from humanly unacceptable living conditions, yet without finding elsewhere the welcome they were hoping for. Faced with situations of such complexity, how can we not stop and reflect on the consequences of a society founded exclusively on material growth?”
“True development,” the Pope continued, “always has the characteristic of solidarity. … It is necessary to find adequate responses to the great social changes taking place, clearly bearing in mind that there can be no effective development if we do not support encounter among peoples, dialogue between cultures and respect for legitimate differences. From this point of view,” he added, “why not consider the current worldwide phenomenon of migration as a situation favorable to understanding between peoples, and to the building of peace and a form of development that involves all nations?”
“Migrations invite us to focus on the unity of the human family, the value of acceptance, hospitality and love for others,” This, the Pope concluded, “is why the Church invites the faithful to open their hearts to migrants and their families, in the knowledge that they are not just a ‘problem,’ but also a ‘resource’ that must be appropriately used for the progress of human beings and their authentic development.”
The Holy See has announced that the 6th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees will be held in the Vatican from November 9 to 12. The event has as its theme: “A pastoral response to the phenomenon of migration in the era of globalization. Five years after the Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi.”
A press conference announcing the conference was attended by Archbishops Antonio Maria Veglio and Agostino Marchetto, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and by Msgr. Novatus Rugambwa, under secretary of the same council.
“Globalization,” said Archbishop Veglio, “has created a new labor market and, consequently, forced many to emigrate, also in order to flee from poverty, misery, natural catastrophes and local and international conflicts, as well as from political or religious persecution. This has opened markets to international intervention, but it has not torn down the walls of national boundaries to allow the free circulation of people, even with due respect for the sovereignty of States and their constitutional charters, safeguarding legality and security.”
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Pope Benedict XVI will be praying in August for displaced persons and refugees.
The general intention chosen by the Pope is “That public opinion may be more aware of the problems of millions of displaced persons and refugees, and that concrete solutions may be found for their often tragic situation.”
According to recent statistics, about 42 million refugees are living around the world.