Pope Benedict XVI announced the theme of “One Human Family” as the message of the 97th World Day of Migrants and Refugees to be held in January.
Echoed by other Vatican officials, the Pontiff stressed the importance of recognizing the “profound link between all human beings” and the need for the rights of all individuals to be protected.
"The World Day of Migrants and Refugees offers the whole Church an opportunity to reflect on a theme linked to the growing phenomenon of migration, to pray that hearts may open to Christian welcome and to the effort to increase in the world justice and charity, pillars on which to build an authentic and lasting peace,” wrote the Pontiff in his opening remarks on Oct. 26.
“All,” he continued, “belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded.”
However, the Pope added, “States have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers, always guaranteeing the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person. Immigrants, moreover, have the duty to integrate into the host country, respecting its laws and its national identity.”
Addressing the situation of refugees and forced migrants, Pope Benedict said that “those who are forced to leave their homes or their country” should be “helped to find a place where they may live in peace and safety, where they may work and take on the rights and duties that exist in the country that welcomes them, contributing to the common good and without forgetting the religious dimension of life.”
At a press conference this morning announcing the Jan. 16 event, Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio – president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People – and secretary Fr. Gabriele Bentoglio stated that there are currently 15 million refugees in the world.
Fr. Bentoglio added that "the number of internally displaced persons, above all as relates to cases of violation of human rights, stands at around twenty-seven million.”
"The challenge," he said, "consists in creating areas of tolerance, hope, healing and protection, and in ensuring that these dramas and tragedies – too often experienced in the past and in the present – never happen again.”
On the inherent struggles within society in welcoming and assimilating individuals from other cultures, Archbishop Veglio noted that “the Holy Father's Message also reinforces the international community's perception of the importance of dialogue and promotes the recognition of human rights for everyone, combating new forms of racism and discrimination.”
Ultimately the objective, Fr. Bentoglio added, is "to guarantee refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons are given the concrete possibility to develop their human potential.”
Pope Benedict also emphasized in his message on human unity that that “the presence of the Church, as the People of God journeying through history among all the other peoples, is a source of trust and hope.”
“It is the Holy Eucharist in particular that constitutes, in the heart of the Church, an inexhaustible source of communion for the whole of humanity,” he underscored.
“It is thanks to this that the People of God includes 'every nation, race, people, and tongue,' not with a sort of sacred power but with the superior service of charity.”