Tuesday, October 11, 2016

French bishops support impending closure of Calais Jungle

17 mai 2016 : Visite de Mgr PONTIER, archevêque de Marseille et président de la Conférence des évêques de France accompagné de Mgr Jean-Paul JAEGER, évêque d’Arras dans le camp de réfugiés, la "Jungle", à Calais (62), France.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 migrants.

"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? "

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