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Venezuelan migrants walking along a highway in Columbia Venezuelan migrants walking along a highway in Columbia  (AFP or licensors)

COMECE webinar highlights plight of migrants, asylum seekers

A webinar organized by the Bishops Conferences of Europe (COMECE) on Wednesday aims to provide a space for discussion on the important issue of migration in Europe. In an interview with Vatican News, Fr. Barrios Prieto, the General-Secretary for COMECE highlights the important contribution of the Church in the care of migrants and asylum seekers.

By Vatican News staff writer

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), in collaboration with the Saint Egidio Community, hold a webinar on Wednesday themed, “Human Dignity and Resilience: Migrants and Hosting Communities.”

The online event, organized in the context of COMECE’s call to put human dignity and the common good at the center of future negotiations of the European Union’s Pact on Migration and Asylum, aims to draw attention to the plight of migrants and asylum seekers, as well as listen to the problems faced by their hosting communities.

Fr. Barrios Prieto, the General Secretary of COMECE spoke to Vatican News’ Francesca Sabatinelli ahead of the webinar explaining the object of the event and the Church’s important role in promoting a deeper reflection on this very critical issue.

Purpose of the webinar

Fr. Prieto explained that the webinar provides an opportunity to hear the witnesses of people that are directly involved with migration in Europe; including the migrants themselves, and those who receive them. At the same time, it will provide a space to hear from policymakers, and their proposals for the European Union on the issue.

Another importance of the webinar, he added, is to change the unpleasant narrative that some people have regarding migrants. “Many Europeans think that these persons that arrive in our countries create problems,” Fr. Prieto explained. They think “they take away jobs and they create criminal problems.”

Fr. Prieto noted, on the contrary, that these persons, “if well received and well-integrated, create witness to a country, help to a country” and enrich it by bringing in a “difference in cultures.”

Pope Francis 

In the wake of Pope Francis’ expression of gratitude to Columbia for its help towards Venezuelan migrants after the Angelus on Sunday, Fr. Prieto said that the Holy Father’s gesture is a message directed to the European Union and to other countries of the world.

The message, he explained, “is to help, to show solidarity not only when things go well, not only when we have resources but also when it is difficult and when it costs…the European Union is called to help even in difficult situations, even when it is not easy, even when countries have difficulty to receive migrants.”

“This is something human,” he added. “This is part of our being brothers and sisters.”

The role of the Church

Fr. Prieto went on to highlight the mission and contribution of the Church as regards the important issue of migration.

“I think we have a prophetic mission, that is, to have a dream as the Pope speaks about dreams he has for Europe – a Europe that receives and a Europe that integrates,” Fr. Prieto said.

Another mission of the Church, he continued, is one of advocacy: “to try to make sure that legislative proposals and policies that come out of the European Union are policies that keep the values of the EU – values of solidarity, fraternity, justice and equity.”

Finally, Fr. Prieto noted that an important contribution of the Church is to provide help for migrants by supporting local churches and charity organizations working closely with them.

“I think that the Church contributes in different ways to this very important issue for the future of our continent,” Fr. Prieto said.

 

17 February 2021, 11:21