As you are aware, next Sunday is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Immigration is a phenomenon which is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Today millions are displaced by war hunger and oppression. We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life around the Mediterranean as desperate migrants attempt to enter the EU. They are in search of a better life. Some will be coming to this country and they are hoping that Ireland will be a place where they are safe and can begin the process of rebuilding their lives. It is important that the local church be at the forefront of efforts to welcome them.
In one of the key phrases of the famous passage of Chapter 5 of Matthew’s gospel Jesus said: ‘I was a stranger and you took me in’. In the bible we are repeatedly told to welcome the stranger. In the Old Testament we read ‘you shall love the stranger for you are strangers in Egypt’(Deuteronomy). The implications of this are spelled out in Chapter 24 of Deuteronomy. We Irish have much to learn from this. The Lord could well say to us: Remember you too were treated harshly abroad, building London’s underground, the mines of Yorkshire, in the docks of Boston or in the new cities of Sydney and Perth. Saint Patrick himself was a refugee, a slave, someone who was trafficked for profit. Pope Francis said that the city, the town, the village that does not welcome the stranger has forgotten to care for itself.
Here in Cork various ethnic groups have enriched our city with their talents and heritage. Indeed much of our local economy is highly dependent on the contribution of immigrants. We acknowledge the great work of Religious Congregations and others including NASC and Cois Tine.
Sunday is therefore an occasion to heighten the awareness of the current phenomenon of immigration and the challenges facing migrants coming to our country. Obviously we respect the rights of the State to devise procedures to address the situation.
It is an occasion also to pray for all who are experiencing great suffering, remembering especially, the persecuted Christians of the Middle East and Africa.
Notes to Editors:
- Bishop John Buckley is Bishop of Cork and Ross
- The Bishops’ Council for Immigrants has made available a parish resource pack for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees which can be accessed on catholicbishops.ie.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444