The Pastoral Care of Migrants of the Conference of Bishops of France, has accepted the general thrust of government plans to dismantle and relocate Calais refugees, saying it was "controversial, but going in the right direction."
In a statement (originally published on 19 September, but translated
into English this week by Seeking Sanctuary), the bishops invite
Christian activists to 'mobilise in favour of a culture of encounter.'
Faced with hostility from many elected officials, the letter calls
upon Christians to mobilise action to receive migrants in reception and
orientation centres (CAOs) distributed throughout the country.
"The hostile reactions from senior politicians in the sense of
refusing to share responsibility for hosting refugees from the town,
challenged us strongly," said Alexis Artaud of La Ferriere, project
manager of the national office for pastoral care of migrants and a
researcher specialising in interreligious dialogue in support of
"For years, our fellow citizens of Calais have borne too heavy a
share of that responsibility. It is right and desirable to improve the
spread," explains the pastoral letter.
Without commenting on the details of the decommissioning plan, which
is still to be assessed in practice, the National Pastoral Care of
Migrants Office recalls that the social doctrine of the Church invites
us "to promote and support responses that value the dignity of persons" .
"We hope that this operation will go well, as announced, in respect
of individuals, and that they will then be welcomed and supported in the
reception centres, without being considered as mere administrative
records," says Alexis Artaud La Ferriere.
In the letter, the pastoral care of migrants committee encourages its
diocesan delegates and members of its network to advance the "culture
of encounter" through concrete actions, including direct appeal to
elected officials reluctant to open a reception centre in their city.
"Delegates can do that by all possible means, as long as these remain in
a peaceful and legal framework," says the researcher.
Although it falls upon the state to provide for accommodation of
Calais migrants, the committee finally recalls "the duty" of its
networks to position themselves for hospitality and keep up the pressure
for welcome " priests, let alone bishops, generally have moral
authority regarding elected officials: they can help to improve the
lives of exiles. "
Faced with policies that "incite rejection of the other and stoke
fear," the letter recalls the invitation of the Permanent Council of the
Conference of Bishops of France to provide a response to this crisis
that remains faithful to the Christian tradition and the teaching of
Pope Francis: "We must ask ourselves how we have treated migrants
arriving in our country over many years. Is it tolerable that today
thousands of men, women, and children live in our territory in
conditions that are too often inhumane? "