Migrants need to be allowed to participate fully in Irish society and we need to be particularly vigilant to avoid exploitation of women and children, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said today in his New Year’s ‘World Day of Peace’ homily.
For the past 51 years, the Catholic Church worldwide has celebrated a World Day of Peace on January 1st. Pope Francis’ message this year is: ‘Migrants and refugees: Men and women seeking peace’. Addressing the congregation at Raheen parish in Limerick this morning, Bishop Leahy said that Pope Francis’ four pronged strategy – welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating – for addressing the refugee and migrant crisis internationally is equally applicable to us in Ireland.
“This year, Pope Francis has chosen a topic very dear to his heart, a topic about which he often speaks and acts – the theme of migrants and refugees. They are constantly, he says, in his prayers. He reminds us there are over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees. In Ireland we have a particular sensitivity to the theme of migration, emigration,” he said.
“We need to do all we can to welcome migrants,” Bishop Leahy continued. “We need to be on the look out to make sure migrants, especially women and children, are not exposed to risks or being exploited.
“In Ireland we need to support the human development of migrants and refugees, ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people. This will enable them not only to cultivate and realize their potential, but also equip them better in their turn to go out and encounter others in a spirit of dialogue rather than confrontation.
“To welcome migrants means we also need to know how to allow them participate fully in our society. It is to the benefit of us all.”
In Limerick, he said, there are a number of excellent vehicles for supporting migrants and refugees but in some respects, not least in terms of living conditions, we are not living up to our obligation to support asylum seekers.
“I am pleased the Limerick Social Services Council, set up by the Diocese, manages to offer support to migrants. There are others who also do good work, such as Doras. Our schools do great work in welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating. But we can’t deny there are many migrants and refugees among us looking for homes, friendship, help.
“Asylum seekers are living in dire circumstances not far from us. For each of us, personally but also as a parish and as a diocese, Pope Francis’ message comes as a pressing invitation,” he concluded.