Church teaching for pastrol care of migrants

Church teaching for pastrol care of migrants

The history of humankind is a history of migration. Migrations are on the increase day by day for reasons of better livelihood, or for other demands of life like jobs, strenuous conditions in one's own country, religious persecution and so on. It is a matter of serious concern for all nations and people. There are many advantages along with it, like good job opportunities, peaceful life, higher salaries, wide range of living standards and so on. But it is a fact that migrants who have had to give up their homeland, their possessions and relations inevitably carry with them the characteristics and memories of their own people as an indelible identity which cannot be renounced or denied. Experience has shown that the inability of expression in other than the mother language and loss of cultural and spiritual patrimonies not only damage the conscience but also cancel religious convictions and practices. As far as the Church is concerned, migration has a great missionary dimension. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi notes: "It is the result of their living presence and witness in the midst of new people that forms new Churches. So they are the real seeds and the evangelizers" (n.21).

Migration always involves uprooting, detachment from one's people, culture and place. At the same time it is for insertion and integration into a new society and place. In the Old Testament God brought the Israelites to the promised land to make them a chosen race and wanted them to keep up their identity in the new land. God did not want the Israelites to be scattered but united as the people of God. As Yahweh cared for the Israelites, the migrants need special pastoral care from the part of the Church lest they be disoriented in the new situation. St. Paul says: "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God" (Rom.15:7).

Proper pastoral care of the migrants is a great mission entrusted to the Church. Erga migrantes caritas Christi, an instruction issued in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People notes: "Welcoming the stranger is intrinsic to the nature of the Church itself and bears witness to its fidelity to the Gospel" (n. 22).The mission of the Church towards migrants calls for an integrated approach of the proclamation of the gospel, clear policy and programs of pastoral works, catechetical and liturgical formation, fostering dialogue with them, working for their human rights, dignity, etc.

There is no dearth of Magisterial material safeguarding the right of pastoral care of the migrants. Popes, Councils and Encyclicals recommend the retention and promotion of the rights of the migrants. None of the Vatican documents encourage absorption or integration of the immigrants into the Church of arrival. The teachings of the Church with regard to the pastoral care of the migrant faithful of any sui juris Church, anywhere in the world, are crystal clear from the following Church documents.

Teachings of the Councils

Lateran Council IV 

"Since in many places people of different languages live within the same city or diocese, having one faith but different rites and customs, we therefore strictly order bishops of such cities and dioceses to provide suitable men who will do the following in the various rites and languages: celebrate the divine services for them, administer the Church's sacraments, and instruct them by word and examples" Lateran Council IV (1215), can. 9, Counciliarurn Eccumenicourum ... Rome.1962, p. 215.

Second Vatican Council

For the Catholic Church wishes the traditions of each particular church or rite to remain whole and entire, and it likewise wishes to adapt its own way of life to the needs of different times and places" (OE. 2).

Therefore these churches are of equal rank, so that none of them is superior to the others because of its rite. They have the same rights and obligations, even with regard to the preaching of the Gospel in the whole world (cf. Mk16:15), under the direction of the Roman Pontiff" (OE. 3)

Provision must be made therefore everywhere in the world to protect and advance all these individual Churches. For this purpose, each should organize its own parishes and hierarchy, where the spiritual good of the faithful requires it...each and every Catholic, as also the baptized members of any non-Catholic church or community who come to the fullness of the Catholic communion, must retain each his own rite wherever he is, and follow it to the best of his ability" (OE. 4)

It likewise pertains to Episcopal conferences to found and promote agencies which will fraternally receive those who immigrate from missionary territories for of work or study, and which will aid them by suitable pastoral attention" (AG.38).

This Synod solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while keeping in mind the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to their own disciplines, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful and better adapted to foster the good of souls. The perfect observance of this traditional principle-which indeed has not always been observed-is a prerequisite for any restoration of union" (UR. 16).

Where there are faithful of a different rite, the diocesan bishop should provide for their spiritual needs either through priests or parishes of that rite or through an Episcopal Vicar endowed with the necessary faculties. Wherever it is fitting, the last named should also have an Episcopal rank" CD. 23) Teachings of Popes "Pope Pius XII says that "for Oriental Churches there should not be any compulsion to substitute their customs with those of the Latin Church and every Rite must have equal estimation and dignity before the common Mother Church" (AAS. 1944. P. 137)

Regarding the pastoral care of the faithful of the Eastern Rites who are living in Latin Rite dioceses, in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Conciliar Decree Christus Dominus 23 and OrientaliumEcclesiarum4the Latin Ordinaries (bishops) of such dioceses are to provide as soon as possible for an adequate pastoral care of the faithful of these Eastern Rites, through the ministry of the priests or through parishes of the Rites, where this would be indicated, or through an Episcopal Vicar endowed with the necessary faculties where circumstances would so indicate" (Letter of Pope John Paul II to the bishops of India on May 28, 1987).

The migrant has the right to pastoral care from the local Church. It should be emphasized that he or she has the right not to the generic pastoral care common to the whole body of the believers but to a specific ministry adopted to their language and especially their culture" (Message of John Paul II on World migration day 1990, L'Osservatore Romano, August 6, n.32, Vol.23 (1990), p.11.

I particularly urge the Latin ordinaries in these countries to study attentively, grasp thoroughly and apply faithfully the principles issued by the Holy See concerning ecumenical cooperation and the pastoral care of the Eastern Catholic Church especially when they lack their own hierarchy." (John Paul II, Orientale Lumen (1995), n.9.

"There is an urgent need to overcome the fears and misunderstandings which appear at times between the Catholic Eastern Churches and the Latin Church... especially with regard to the pastoral care of their people, also outside their own territories." (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Asia, 1999, n.27.

Canonical Dispositions 

The Christian faithful have the right to worshipping God according to the prescriptions of their own Rite approved by the 2 legitimate pastors or the Church and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church" (CIC.214).

If the local Ordinary has faithful of a different rite within his diocese, he is to provide for their spiritual needs either by means of the priests or parishes of that rite or by means of an Episcopal Vicar" (CIC. 383§2).

The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own Church sui iuris, and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church" (CCEO. 17).

No one can presume in any way to induce the Christian faithful to transfer to another Church sui iuris" (CCEO.31).

The Christian faithful of the Eastern Churches even if committed to the care of a hierarch or pastor of another Church sui iuris, nevertheless remain enrolled in their own Church" (CCEO.38).

No one can validly transfer to another Church sui iuris without the consent of the Holy See" (CCEO. 32§1).

The Christian faithful of the Eastern Churches even if committed to the care of a hierarch or pastor of another Church sui iuris, nevertheless remain enrolled in their own Church" (CCEO.38).

The eparchial bishop to whom the care of the Christian faithful of any other sui juris Church is committed is bound by the serious obligation of providing all the things in order that these Christian faithful retain the rite of their own Church, cultivate and observe it as much as they can; he should foster relations with the higher authority of that Church" (CCEO 193§1).

The eparchial bishop is to provide for the spiritual needs of those Christian faithful, if it is possible, through the presbyters or pastors of the same Church sui iuris as the Christian faithful or even through a syncellus constituted for the care of these Christian faithful" (CCEO 193§2).

In places where not even an exarchv has been erected for the Christian faithful of a certain Church sui iuris, the local hierarch of another Church sui iuris, even the Latin Church of the place is to be considered the proper hierarch of these faithful, with due regard for the prescription of can. 101; if, however, there are several local hierarchs, that one is to be considered their proper hierarch who has been appointed by the Apostolic See or, if it is a question of the Christian faithful of a patriarchal Church, by the Patriarch with the assent of the Apostolic See" (CCEO. 916§5).

Era migrantes Caritas Christi 

Erga migrantes caritas Christi is an instruction issued in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

Welcoming the stranger is intrinsic to the nature of the Church itself and bears witness to its fidelity to the Gospel" (n. 22).

With regard to Catholic migrants the Church makes provision for a specific kind of pastoral care because of the diversity of language, origin, culture, ethnicity and tradition, or of belonging to a particular Church sui iuris with its own rite... The uprooting that moving abroad inevitably involves (from country of origin, family, language etc.) should not be made worse by uprooting the migrant from his religious rite or identity too" (n. 49).

When groups of immigrants are particularly numerous and homogeneous therefore, they are encouraged to keep up their specific Catholic traditions. In particular, efforts must be made to provide organised religious assistance by priests of the language, culture and rite of the migrants selecting the most suitable juridical option from among those foreseen by the CIC and the CCEO." (n. 50)

Eastern Rite Catholic migrants, whose numbers are steadily increasing, deserve particular pastoral attention. In their regard we should first of all remember the juridical obligation of the faithful to observe their own rite everywhere insofar as possible, rite being understood as their liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary heritage (cf. CCEO Can. 28, §1 and PaG 72) (n.51).

All the above official teachings of the Church attest to the solicitude of the Church for the migrants and defend their pastoral rights. The official ecclesiastical position on the emigrants from the time of Lateran IV (1215) favoured providing ministers of the rite and language of the emigrants because migration is no reason to dissolve one's birth- rite. The inability of the Syro-Malabar Church to cater to the spiritual and liturgical needs of the migrants can lead to their alienation and ultimate separation from the Mother Church. The only solution to solve the above issue is to extend jurisdiction everywhere in the world as territorial or personal. Any further delay in doing so will result in irreparable damage to the entire Catholic Church. Besides, it is also a question of keeping up the credibility of the Catholic claim that the Church stands for justice, peace and harmony. It is all the more right and just for the Church to allow the faithful to protect as well as foster their own faith traditions everywhere in India through the establishment of appropriate juridical structures proper to the sui iuris Church.

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