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A Christian Point of View

A document of the Catholic Church—"People on the move"—addresses the issue of people living in a situation of homelessness, continuous migrations and wanderings, or for whom the road has become a lifestyle, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Published in 2007 by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People—which was created in 1970 by Pope Paul VI—this document this document is worth reading as its resonance is a local and international.

The fourth and final part of this paper deals with homelessness.

Regarding the precariousness of their situation, the Church notes that “we are also seeing a gradual change in attitude towards them. The plight of the poor no longer moves people, they have become a problem of law and order, and irritation towards beggars is increasing” (No. 150).

This document outlines a disarmingly clear passage from the Word of God concerning the support that must be given to impoverished people, regardless the cause of their poverty, whether a difficult situation, disease, hunger, or the simple fact of being homeless.

The Word of God censures any form of irritation or indifference towards poor people (poverty fatigue), reminding us that the Lord will judge our lives by assessing how and how much we have loved the poor (cf. Matthew 25:31-46*). According to Saint Augustine*, we are requested to help any poor person so as not to run the risk of denying someone who might be Christ himself” (No. 151).

The Council invites us to go beyond the simple distribution of food.

Regarding all kinds of canteen, a free, hot and copious meal should be served in a familiar and welcoming atmosphere. Those who come to eat need to satisfy not only the material need for food, but are above all in need of kindness, respect and human warmth, which are often denied to them. Ideally the service should be provided by volunteers, who give their free time to help” (No. 161).

The Council makes a remark that could be surprising for some: it invites to respect the eating habits related to religious traditions. “Guests’ dietary habits should also be taken into account, in respect of their religious traditions, for example” (No. 161).

Wise words from Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II

Pope Benedict XVI launched strong calls for support to migrants in his message for the 98th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2012:

Asylum seekers, who fled from persecution, violence and situations that put their life at risk, stand in need of our understanding and welcome, of respect for their human dignity and rights, as well as awareness of their duties.”

Their suffering pleads with individual states and the international community to adopt attitudes of reciprocal acceptance, overcoming fears and avoiding forms of discrimination, and to make provisions for concrete solidarity also through appropriate structures for hospitality and resettlement programs. All this entails mutual help between the suffering regions and those which, already for years, have accepted a large number of fleeing people, as well as a greater sharing of responsibilities among States.”

The press and the other media have an important role in making known, correctly, objectively and honestly, the situation of those who have been forced to leave their homeland and their loved ones and want to start building a new life.”

Christian communities are to pay special attention to migrant workers and their families by accompanying them with prayer, solidarity and Christian charity, by enhancing what is reciprocally enriching, as well as by fostering new political, economic and social planning that promotes respect for the dignity of every human person, the safeguarding of the family, access to dignified housing, to work and to welfare.”

John Paul II addressed in his message of 2001, the question of the reception of non-Christians by Christians:

In the Encyclical Redemptoris missio, I called to mind the task of the Church with respect to non-Christian migrants, underlining that by settling down, they create new occasions for contacts and cultural exchanges. These urge the Christian community to welcome, to dialogue, to help and towards fraternity. This presupposes a deeper awareness of  the importance of the Catholic doctrine on non-Christian religions (cfr. Decl. Nostra Aetate), so as to be able to undertake an attentive, constant and respectful interreligious dialogue as a means of mutual knowledge and enrichment. “In the light of the economy of salvation," I wrote in the aforementioned Encyclical Redemptoris missio, "the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in inter-religious dialogue. Instead she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical as though they were interchangeable(No. 6).

The presence of non-Christian immigrants in countries of ancient Christianity represents a challenge to the Church communities. The phenomenon continues to activate charity in the Church, in terms of welcome and aid for these brothers and sisters in their search for work and housing. Somehow, this action is quite similar to what many missionaries are doing in mission lands. They take care of the sick, the poor, the illiterate. This is the disciple's way: he responds to the expectations and necessities of the neighbor in need (No. 7).


*These links have been added by the author and are not present in the web document of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People.


Interesting Links

A Rosary of Migrants and Itinerant People


Please calculate 7 plus 7.*

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