India: Catholic Ministry to Migrants to be more synodal

Indian Latin Rite Commission for Migrants meets in Bangalore to discuss how to reach out to migrants and refugees in a synodal way.

By Lisa Zengarini

The National Commission for Migrants of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), is calling on Indian dioceses to take up the challenging mission of working with migrants with a synodal approach, to foster a Good Samaritan attitude both in institutions and society.

The issue was discussed this week during a three-day conference in Bangalore titled “The Pastoral Care of migrants in the Multicultural context of India: A synodal way.”

Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants 

The gathering, held from 12-14 March, focused on the need for the Church in India to take up Pope Francis’ call to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees so they can live in dignity and freedom, and be made to feel an integral part of the hosting communities.

According to the Commission, priority should be given to saving lives and safeguarding the human dignity of migrants, addressing the rising scourges of exploitation, human trafficking and bonded labour, while implementing specific empowerment programmes aimed at making them self-reliant, a press release reports.

Networking and involving migrants

To this end the 14 regional secretaries of the Commission and their diocesan counterparts will chalk out plans in collaboration with migrants, and will meet regularly in the future to discuss them. They have also decided that every diocese should establish a migrant unit providing minimum services to them. 

Introducing the conference, Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur of Raipur, the chairman of the National Commission for Migrants, expressed his concerns over the worsening situation of migrants in India, emphasizing the need for interreligious dialogue to address the issues in a collective manner.

For his part, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore pointed to involving all religious in dioceses in Migrants Ministry, as they know better the situation on the ground.

Pope Francis’ desire for a more synodal Church reaching out to the most vulnerable

Speaking at the conference was also Father Fabio Baggio, the Undersecretary of the Vatican Dicastery of Integral Human Development, who recalled Pope Francis’ desire for a more synodal Church reaching out to the most vulnerable in the peripheries. The Italian Scalabrinian missionary further highlighted the need to heed the struggles of migrant workers in India who are bearing the brunt of the post-Covid crisis and of the current economic slowdown in the country. 

Ms. Christine Nathan, President of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) pointed to growing discrimination against migrants even in Church communities where they are often perceived as outsiders and not welcomed wholeheartedly because of their colour, creed and religious affiliation.

Participants agreed on the importance of pooling resources, networking and involving migrants themselves to make the Church’s reach-out work to migrants in India more effective.

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16 March 2023, 16:43