Hope for the Migrants – Hope for the Church: Exploring a Pastoral Response Speech by Fr Alan Hilliard, Director of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants at Conference in the Western Theological Institute
28 SEPTEMBER 2006
HOPE FOR THE MIGRANTS – HOPE FOR THE CHURCH
EXPLORING A PASTORAL RESPONSE
SPEECH BY FR ALAN HILLIARD, DIRECTOR OF THE IRISH EPISCOPAL COMMISSION FOR EMIGRANTS AT CONFERENCE IN THE WESTERN THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE
Lessons learnt from Irish emigration on the subject of migration in general:
* Migration is essentially a journey of the heart.
* It is very hard to measure monetary returns against social cost.
* Integration cannot be forced.
* Migration is not just the engagement of people … it is the engagement of nations.
* Irish priests and nuns support migrants to overcome a sense of isolation
that one inevitably feels in a new land.
* The needs of migrants in the host country change over time.
* For most Irish emigrants, their faith sustained them.
* The majority of emigrants do not wane in their commitment to their homeland,
which may, adversely, affect their ability to make their new land, ‘home’.
There is a term that most Irish people are familiar with and it is ‘Buillte istaeach’
or ‘runner in’. It’s a term used in country towns and villages and even in inner
city areas. It used to put the visitor on his or her guard. On occasion in a fit
of drink one of those who makes the rules may put their arms around you and say,
‘ah jessus, you’re one of us’. You take delight. You’ve made it. You are now one of
them. You go home chuffed; you put your head on the pillow. You sleep silently
and well …because now you are one of them|! And you should soundly sleep: You have
become part of this incorrigible ability of humanity to create a situation of them
Borders, boundaries, wealth and influence are built on the often false precepts
of a superior race setting itself above what it deems to be an inferior race. It
was this atmosphere that brought about the exile. God had to remove his people
from the situation where societal and religious norms created an environment where
people were thriving on notions of superiority. He brought them to Babylon so they
could look one another in the eye and realise that as God’s people they shared a
variety of gifts and talents but in essence we are all equal before Him. Exile
reformed the people of God. They learnt not to rely on external belief and practices
but on the God who held the flame of hope before them. The hope of a new future where
they would start off fresh and in a sense recreate the world which they hoped to
occupy. Exile restored a balance for a people who had lost a sense of perspective
on life and more profoundly on God.
The earth and its inhabitants crave balance and harmony. We know this to be true
and we are now becoming more aware of the importance of respecting the balance in
nature. However one of the greatest mechanisms at work in our world today, to
correct imbalance, is migration.
Irish emigration learning too late
Migration from Ireland was an attempt to restore balance. Poverty, joblessness,
landlessness and ultimately hopelessness were intolerable both for the hearts of
individuals and the nation. Migration was the antidote. It gave hope, it gave a
job, and it gave wealth and opportunity. Imagine if it wasn’t an option. How would
nature have restored balance to this land of ours. Another natural disaster akin
to the famine? Let us therefore approach the story of Irish emigration as part
of a self-correcting mechanism.
A contemporary option available to us in the quest to restore balance, is that of
Overseas Aid as a source of support for migrants. For Ireland, this wasn’t a
traditional option as we didn’t have the range of organisations that we have
today. Apart from organisations like the Sick and Indigent Room Keepers Society
and the local Saint Vincent de Paul, there was little on offer. For the purpose
of the restoration of balance in the world market migrants are presenting as to
be more proactive than aid. Andrew Mwenda has a column in a Kampala newspaper.
In an interview in the London Times recently he said: ‘Aid creates the wrong
incentives, it makes objects of the poor, passive recipients of charity rather
than active participants in their own economic betterment. Africans don’t need
handouts; they need better institutions, land reform and access to cheap mortgages’.
And so, until Ireland matured and we built better institutions, made attempts at
land reform and gave access to cheap mortgages the balance was provided by migration
from this land. For many years we viewed Irish emigration as the only form of
migration in this planet of ours. We are challenged now to place our story in the
global perspective. We have learnt a lot that we can now pass on. We have also
contributed to an understanding of the care of the migrants that needs to be
acknowledged and contextualised we now have to name and insist that it is heard.
As this globe tries to balance human rights with economic need we have to share
the story of the Irish migrant and in particular highlight the option for the
migrant that the Irish Church was brave enough to take.
Irish emigration – Observations
I could relate hundreds of stories of Irish emigration that would occupy you for
a couple of hours. I want rather to highlight a number of points that we have
learnt from Irish emigration that helps us understand migration and in, particular,
* Migration is essentially a journey of the heart. There is no getting away from
the emotional wreckage that emigration caused. We thought it would solve some
people’s problems but as the poet Horace reminds us: ‘Those who change their
sky don’t change their soul’ or as an A.A. member told me once: ‘The first person
you meet coming off the boat is yourself’.
* The next point follows from this namely that it is very hard to measure monetary
returns against social cost. This is particularly the case when we speak about
* Migration is not just the engagement of people with another land it is the
engagement of nations. We find that nations do not take this responsibility
seriously. This is why the biggest issue in today’s world is not the issue of
refugees and asylum seekers but of internally displaced people. People who live ]
in a country without status or recognition. As someone recently commented the
issue with migration in the past was homelessness now its homelessness and
* Cultural sensitivity is supportive of integration. Coincidentally apart from
migrant chaplains, many Irish priests and nuns were also travelled and provided
accompaniment to Irish people in a strange land. Without knowing it they were
providing culturally sensitive support. This support helps overcome the sense of
isolation that one inevitably feels in new land.
* The option that best suits the employer or the economy is usually workable in
the short term and detrimental in the long run. We see among the Irish the
consequences of ‘the lump’ among the elderly Irish in the UK. Also the issue
of the undocumented in the US is particularly unjust because the United States
tolerated the situation as it gave a pool of cheap labour with little responsibility
to the host economy.
* Migration highlights the importance of religious belief and practice. For
some individuals migration is an opportunity to lapse from oppressive religious
practices that one interprets as limiting human freedom. For most Irish their
faith sustained them. For most their dependence on the God that sustains and
watches over his people was the key to keeping hope alive. The local Church
provided a common space for inclusion and growth. As happened in the biblical
exile faith and religion was redefined in the new context.
* One other important point is that integration cannot be forced. One can offer
help and assistance but it cannot be forced. Integration of Irish people took
place over generations not over night.
* The majority of emigrants did not wane in their commitment to their homeland.
This commitment may have had an adverse affect on their ability to make their
new land their ‘home’.
The reason I mention these points is that they are obvious to us. However I was
delighted when I started reading Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi to see so many
of these ideas alive on its pages. The document gave expression to the story of
the migrant that no one else is prepared to tell. It holds before the world its
duty towards the humanity of the migrant. And it is a sizeable pastoral issue:
there were over 190 million migrants in 2005 and at least half of these are in
Europe. Its extent is a challenge to institutions like the UN to focus on this
The reason I chose the title Hope for the Migrant Hope for the Church has three
origins. One is with Napoleon. He defined leaders as dealers in hope. We in our
own way are leaders and we must cooperate in offering hope to the migrant. This
hope must engage the hope that lives with the heart of the migrant. It is not a
one way thing but a synergy that brings blessing to all involved. The second
source is the tile of the American Bishops Conference pastoral on Migration
which identifies the migrant journey as a journey of hope. Why would people put
their lives at risk on the Mexican Border on daily basis only they live with the
hope of a better future? Thirdly, I HAVE read [some where] that the migrant is
the wealthiest person in society. I thought this strange as some arrive with
nothing. But the writer pointed out that migrants possess a future. They see only
what is ahead and given the proper opportunity they create a future for themselves
and their family. They are industrious. They achieve higher grades in education
and contribute greatly to the wealth of their host society and also contribute
to their family in their country of origin. The Church is well placed to nurture
this hope and benefit from it – but have we the energy, interest and resources
to nurture this new occasion of Grace that has come our way. The document is
quite specific in its instructions as to how we meet this challenge.
The Church Speaks
In August 1952 the Church promulgated a document entitled ‘Exsul Familia’ which
is considered to be the ‘Magna Carta of the Churches thought on migration’ EMCC
para. 20. It was issued following the massive dislocation of people’s following
the Second World War. Anything written prior to this was focused on chaplains
and norms for local clergy dealing with migrants. Namely Ethnografica Studia in
1914. The model here reflects what we have done in Ireland. Send out the shepherds,
follow the sheep and reflect on what is happening in their lives. From the early
part of the twentieth century the churches has issued norms and guidelines for
the care of migrants based on the needs of migrants. The latest document, Erga
Migrantes Caritas Christi was approved by the Holy Father on 1 May, 2004, the
Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. It was issued by the Pontifical Council for
Migrants and Travellers on the 3 May 2004.
It is a document that anyone with an interest in migrant issues needs to reflect
on. It is the fruit of praxis so cannot be condemned as idealistic in its overall
ethos. On occasion it is quite directive and challenges us to act. It is a document
that is providing a basis for further thought as the consciousness of the world
changes. Even last weekend the International Catholic Migration Commission made
a submission to the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development
on the theme of Migration. The core elements of this submission have their origins
in EMCC. As the submission said we are at ‘a moment of choice with regard to
migration: to choose the path from chaos to coherence’. If we now reflect on the
document and indeed our own history of emigration and discern the signs of hope
offered, we can move towards a more coherent approach.
In order that our pastoral responses do not become short sighted neurotic actions
we must come to terms with what we believe about migration and in particular
the migrant. We cannot look at the issues that are alive for us today without
first contemplating the bigger issues. Neither can we view immigration to Ireland
through the eyes of the Irish emigrant as we then see it as a debt we owe rather
to others because we got a start in other countries! Those who arrive, those who
migrate have rights that go far beyond our romantic philanthropies.
The story of Irish emigration can be helpful but it does not in any way contain
the platform for a balanced approach to migration trends today.
I intend to reflect on the contents of the document under four headings:
* The Migrant
* The role of the Local Church
* The Demand on me personally
Before I move into these four headings. I want to say to that the Church has every
right to be involved in the debate regarding migration. Be under no illusion that
the Church is involved at the operational level across the world with the care of
migrants and refugees. It is well placed to see the movement of peoples. At a parish
level it responds sensitively to demographic fluctuations. We see this in Ireland
when urban parishes empty for the summer and those down the coast have to expand
their services. Simple reactions like this are measuring and monitoring the migratory
patterns of people. The changing demography among Irish people is changing the fabric
of parish and diocese in the greater Leinster area. In paragraph 10 and 11 of Erga
Migrantes the parallels between domestic migration and international migration are
noted. Maybe we see the two as mutually exclusive. What we are asked to consider
in urban migration is that we give ‘loving attention to people on the move and to
their need for solidarity and friendship’ para. 10. The document tells us that the
movement of peoples domestically calls for ‘well designed forms of welcome and
pastoral activity that is continuous, through and adapted as closely as possible
to the actual situation and needs of the migrants’ para 11. From its operational
base, the Church reflects on the movement of peoples and its impact on the local
When you look to the reasons for migration we can reflectively ask what is the
intrinsic difference between people that move from the border counties to the
cities and those from the over-populated cities that move to quieter sylvan
settings. We can reflect on the reasons given by the Bishop Francois Gayot of
Haiti as to why his people move to the United States. Haiti has a population of
eight million with an estimated two million living abroad:
* firstly survival: the need to provide for your family at an economic level;
* secondly: a life project, this is about quality of life and opportunity; or,
* thirdly: for peace.
Despite the huge movement of peoples in the past the document alerts us to the
fact that ‘today’s migrations constitute the greatest movements of persons, if
not people’s of all time.’para.96. In stating this fact the Church is under no
illusion as to the consequences of this movement of people. We are told that what
we have before us in every instance is ‘the birth pangs of a new humanity’ para 12.
Like any birth there is challenge, there is fear but one has to get on with it.
In this manner the Church is forthright in saying that migration is a phenomenon
that has to be embraced. This is not just a sociological phenomenon but is a very
strong part of our faith tradition. ‘The journey from monoculture to multicultural
societies can be a sign of the living presence of God in history and in the
community of humankind.’ para 9.
We also note that when God established covenants with his people it was always while
they were on journey, Moses, Abraham and even the Last Supper WERE ALL [was] in the
context of the journey into Jerusalem.
The main reason why the Church involves itself in the debate on migration is that
it is primarily concerned about the migrant. Rather than highlighting the
discriminatory and unjust practices of the world, the document highlights the
contribution that migrants make to their host nation. However the Church is in
no way naïve regarding the misery that can befall those who are migrants. In many
forums it reminds the world that migration is about migrants, those human beings
who seek hope and who can be the subject of exploitation. The Church speaks always
for the rights of migrants and challenges host societies to be just in the way it
embraces the migrant. This policy is not only for the benefit of the migrant but
for the society in the longer term. Bishop Nicholas Di Marzio who sat on the UN
Commission for Global Migration put it quite succinctly when he said ‘that when
migrants are given the necessary social status they do integrate.’ This is building
on the emphasis in Erga Migrates which reiterates ‘that foreign workers are not
to be considered merchandise or merely manpower’ para. 5
The key to understanding migration is to see it alongside development. ‘Migration
raises a truly ethical question: the search for a new international economic order
for a more equitable distribution of the worlds goods and services’ para 8. The
corollary is that if we neglect migrants in the language of development we construct
globalisation without a conscience. In this regard the Church advocates the right
of a person to migrate but also the right of a person not to migrate. To find within
their homeland the same hope and opportunity they seek away from their home place.
The link between development and migration can be seen in what we know about
remittances. The IMF stated remittances are worth $230 billion worldwide which
is more than double the $106.5 billion in International Aid. In the UK the average
remittance in 2005 was £870 a year from a salary of £22,000. In the Philippines,
under President Marcos, the Government created an aggressive plan to tap at least
one million overseas jobs for its people no wonder when the country received 10
billion dollars of cash remittances in 2005. While we place an emphasis on reaching
our target of GNP should we not also ensure that migrants are not overcharged or
exploited when they send money home? Multi-nationals can transfer millions speedily
and at low cost. Sending a dollar draft to one’s mother in the Philippines or some
other such country can be an expensive and cumbersome exercise. If we are serious
about development we should take the initiative taken in the UK. Recently the
British Government called on banks to slash charges for such services. Research
discovered that the remittance charge was 5% in most cases rising to 8.5% for
transfers below £200. (Guardian 27 July 2006 ). We pride ourselves in our commitment
to the developing world. Cutting back on the cost of remittances (and indeed the
payment of a fair wage for a fair days work) plays a vital role in helping to tackle
It is in the midst of this economic reality that the Church speaks for the migrant.
It is the duty of the church to ‘give loving attention to ‘’people on the move’’
and to their need for solidarity and fellowship’ para 11. In doing this church
highlights the fallacies that exist in some of the arguments placed before society
for restrictionist polices. Falling birth-rates, aging populations continue to
pose problems for developed nations yet we increase the restrictions on the migrant.
The fact is that ‘many nations would not be what they are today without the
contribution made by millions of immigrants’.
In drawing out all these facts the Church is fulfilling its duty to put common sense
into this debate. The church in this document is all too aware of its need to be
specific in its recommendations that it makes on behalf of the migrant. The duty of
a host nation is to provide policies that ‘carefully avoid every possible
discrimination’ para 29. The document highlights that ‘migration meant and still
means enormous hardship and suffering for the migrants’ para 5 and goes onto say
that ‘often migrants are deprived of their most elementary human rights, including
that of forming labour unions’ para 5. The church promotes the protection of families
and the rights of minors who are often overlooked by policy makers and highlights
in this same paragraph that human trafficking has no conscience when it comes to
the weak and the vulnerable and makes particular reference to women and children.
However the one thing that is not taken account of and which we discover is
important is the study of ‘the migrant heart’. As far back as 1836 the Evidence
to the Royal Commission on the Irish Poor relates ‘that the Irish often complain
about the heart in an indefinite manner, without sufficient ground’. And on
another occasion tells of the Irish that ‘they frequently complain about the
heart when the heart is not affected. We are slowly taking account of the unspoken
trauma associated with migration. We know the damage to the human psyche when one
does not give expression to pain and loss. We need to use the language of the
migrants heart and know that when a person leaves their home place no matter
how much money they earn or how much better the circumstances are, there is a
chance that there is pain of exile that may be summed up in the term ‘culture
shock’. When a country welcomes a person with restrictive legislation, when it
removes the right to work, when it divides families the fallout for the migrant
is immense and the social cost is incalculable. Those of us who have travelled
are fools if we think its all about the bright lights and distraction. There is
the personal journey that needs to be heard. One of our workers abroad told me
that what they see at times is permanent grieving, being in one place and looking
to another. To occupy this place is a torment, however it is the place of the
Christian as Erga migrates tells us; ‘to follow Christ means to walk behind him
and be in transit in the world because ‘there is no eternal city for us in this
life’ (Heb, 13:14). The believer is always a paroikas, a temporary resident.’
The Challenge for the local Church
Whatever our view on immigration is the evidence worldwide tells us that migrants
grace a receiving Church. I stay in Kilburn when I go to London. The Church that
was once solely supported by Irish people is now rich in cultural backgrounds. The
pews are populated by people from all over the globe. The parish is alive and vibrant.
The United Sates describes itself as an immigrant Church. The American experience
tells us that between the early eighteen hundreds and the early nineteen hundreds
the Catholic population of the United States went from 7% to 20% of the population.
This fact made the Catholic Church in the US a force to be reckoned with at a national
level but more importantly at the local level it generated dynamic, committed faith
communities that inspire us to this day. The National Life Survey taken up in Australia
in 2001 surveyed 86,368 Mass goers. The majority of Australian-born Mass goers were
over 60, while for overseas, Mass goers the average age was between 40 and 59. The
single group that help best attendance rates were Catholic women born overseas.
The evidence is clear. Immigrants when welcomed make a positive contribution to the
faith community they belong to. This is supported by Erga Migrantes in para 96 when
it says ‘the migrants thirsts for some gesture that will make him feel welcome,
recognised, acknowledged as a person. Even just a simple greeting is one of these.’
The Church is equipped to provide this welcome. This is supported by secular studies
into assimilation or integration. The Church as a universal reality provides familiar
signals for the immigrants who are away from their native place and seeks solace
and support in a structure that they can understand and connect with. We cannot
leave them disappointed to do so echoes the welcome that the infant about to be
born was met with ‘we have no room’ and indeed echoes in our own Irish psyche ‘no
Irish need apply’.
As a society that is now receiving people we have to build on the experience
of other Churches and believe that we already are and will be further graced
by those who come to our shore. There is an inherent challenge that is hope
filled. ‘The foreigner is God’s messenger, who surprises us and interrupts
the logic of daily life, bringing near those who are far away’. Para 101.
Though we crave order God often works in the chaotic. There is a part of
God that uses change to motive us into further action and push us out of
complacency. The image used throughout the document is that of Pentecost.
‘Pentecost does not abolish the various languages and cultures but recognises
them in their identities’. Para 37 and earlier in paragraph 18 describes
Pentecost an event ‘where differences are harmonised by the spirit and charity
becomes authentic in accepting one another’.
The document offers firm advice as to how the local Church responds to migrants
in order to bring forth their gifts and talents. The methodology may be summed
up in the observation that is based on the experience of the people in exodus
where ‘faith finds in migration an exile in which every goal reached in fact is
relative’. This is a wise observation. Parishes find that migrants groups are
transitory. The old notion of a house for life as would have been the case in
previous generations is less apparent. We find more fluidity in life and his
fact does affect the way we think and plan in parishes. A parish I worked in
Dublin in the late nineties has only one of a group of ten who were part of
our pastoral planning group in the parish. Most have moved on. We live in
changing times where as Erga Migrantes reminds us that goals are relative.
So where do we start. How do we make sense of life and ministry? Paragraph
36 points out that ‘fluidity’ of cultures creates opportunities for the
proclamation of the Gospel. As a starting point the document introduces the
very rich concept of enculturation which we are told starts with the fine art
of listening; the purpose of which is getting to know those we minister to.
‘Getting to know the other is to build up bonds of mutual respect; mere
‘tolerance is not enough’ para 36. I think we have to admit that we have a
lot to learn. We know very little about Eastern Rites and how they relate to
the Roman Church. We are more aware than ever of our need to understand world
religions. We need to dialogue with people of different faiths not just to find
common ground but to share our vision for a world that is focused on the role
and presence of the infinite being we call God. We have to be united in hope
against the threat of religious extremism which often undermines the fabric of
the faith tradition it purports to serve and represent.
There is no doubt that the since 9/11 the thinking on how societies interface
with religious faiths has shifted. Governments can no longer ignore the presence
in our communities of individuals and communities who hold fast to their beliefs.
One way in which this reality was ignored in the past was the promotion of a
secular society. Professor Desmond Cahill, summarizes this as follows ‘we should
rid ourselves of the notion of a secular society with its implications of a
religious or anti religious stance, but speak instead of a civil society in
which faith communities, like other social movements, have their place.’ Where
is this place only amongst the local communities who may not broadcast on the
airwaves but have access to peoples hearts. Local communities are founded on
people whose hearts are focused on the fruit of religious belief which is peace,
harmony and solidarity for human kind. Pope John Paul II, in his address to
the International Catholic Migration Commission (12 – 13 Nov 2001), commented
that: ‘the searching for lasting solutions for migrants and refugees has been
a fruitful point of ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation’ para53.
In order to show our respect to those who come amongst us, Erga Migrates
highlights the right of people to have services in their mother tongue.
This is the way people have come to know the infinite and it is part of
the continuing journey. Para 38: People have a right to ‘express mentality,
thought and culture, and spiritual life in the tradition of their Church
of origin. In case anyone from the receiving Church protest against the
setting up of a ghetto the aim of this service is stated quite clearly
which is the ‘progressive integration and self sufficiency of the migrant’.
As I pointed out earlier, when reflecting on the experience of the Irish
emigrant: integration cannot be forced. The provision of such a service is
truly the language of welcome. The fact that people are uprooted from their
home country should not be worsened by the loss of their spiritual identity
and the neglect of their religious rituals. In this regard the document
observes that pious practices are very important to migrant people. Some
of these practices may not hold much attraction for us but as Erga Migrates
informs us: ‘we must also bear in mind that for many migrants it is a fundamental
link with their Church of origin and with their ways of understanding and
living the faith’. para 46
The document outlines the role of the Diocese, Episcopal Conference, Religious
and all stakeholders in the nurturing of the migrant. It draws on canon law to
support the setting up of various types of parishes that support the needs of
migrants. It is a blue print for the pastoral care of migrants. To ignore it
means we act without guidance and pastoral reflection. This brings me to the
The Demand on me personally
I have facilitated a number of workshops helping parishes to prepare for the
challenge of the arrival of so many immigrants to their parish. I find that
one of the most startling findings is that there is an enormous difference
between loving your neighbour and welcoming the stranger. Loving your neighbour
means being charitable, it involves generosity, it involves feeling good about
yourself. It may challenge us financially in Lent when we put money aside for
our Fast boxes. Welcoming the stranger involves fear, it involves moving beyond
the familiar, it involves letting go of the knowledge we protect ourselves with
and listening to new stories that challenge the foundations of our faith, (which
by the way need to be challenged if we are to live in this global society that
demands that we live alongside one another in a multi-faith society not in one
that is an insular, nationalistic, tribal construction that isolates the ‘runners
in’ the first instance.) We do not want globalisation without a conscience. We
need a world that builds on a faith that is profound in its ability to examine
its own peculiarities and delve into its depths. It is demanded of us that we
walk openly into the truth and beauty of other faiths appreciating their wisdom
and enhancing our perspective on our human journey.
We are at a time in history where we need to encourage each and every individual
to rediscover the core of belief and move from shallow religious practice that
sets up walls and boundaries, and ends up fundamentalist. Our aim as people of
faith is to preserve a transcendent view of life. The one thing that is obvious
to me is that we are not well versed in the language and story of the migrant
in Ireland. We refer often to the story of Irish emigration but neglect to place
it alongside the global phenomenon.
We must now understand how important and significant the phenomenon of migration
is. We need to educate ourselves. We need universities to set aside resources to
put migration on the map. This translates into welcome, minds and hearts that are
beginning to understand. The welcome we provide to the migrant will help us mature
as a nation. We have made ground economically but there is much about us that is
insular. The presence of the stranger challenges us to find new ways of understanding
ourselves. This belief is echoed by Pope John Paul II in his World Day of Peace
message in 2001: ‘in the case of many civilisations, immigration has brought growth
and enrichment’. Para 2
I leave you with two considerations from the document. Firstly, to be missionary
now is not a geographical issue. It is cultural. It is to go out to every person
and to bring them into communion with humanity’ para 97. To be missionary in this
sense demands great personal resources and graces and opens us up to new horizons.
Secondly, when the three visitors were welcomed by Abraham, the Father of faith,
they brought great graces. Sarah scoffed. But she was blessed not just by the visit
but by the welcome that was placed before the guests. The welcomed stranger is ‘a
challenge to be discovered and utilized in our work to renew humanity’ para 14.
May the Virgin Mother, who together with her Blessed Son knew the pain of emigration
and exile, help us to understand the experience and very often the drama of those
who are compelled to live far from their homeland and teach us to serve them in
their necessities, truly accepting them as brothers and sisters, so that today’s
migration may be considered an appeal, albeit a mysterious one, to the kingdom of
God, the first fruits of which are already present in His Church and an instrument
of providence to further the unity of the human family and peace.’ Para104
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
* The Irish Bishops’ Conferences service for emigrants: the Irish Episcopal
Conference for Emigrants (IECE), was established in 1957, and it also supports
the pastoral needs of prisoners overseas and their families through the work
of the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas. The IECE is based in Maynooth
and has permanent outreach bases (Chaplaincies) in the UK, USA (New York, Boston,
Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia), Australia and Germany.
* Article 2 of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, as amended by Referendum held
following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, provides that: It is the entitlement
and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its
islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement
of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of
Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with Irish
people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.
For further information please contact:
Director of Communications Martin Long 086 1727 678
Catholic Communications Officer Brenda Drumm 087 233 7797
Director of the IBC’s Commission for Emigrants Fr Alan Hilliard 087 747 7110