“The key-word? Reception”

Card. Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, at the meeting in Vilnius: opening the doors is "a duty for Christians, but politics must do its share"

“I think that the word that best explains the mission of the Church in many areas of action, notably in its evangelizing and pastoral mission with migrants, is the term ‘welcome'”. Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, is not afraid of swimming against the tide. In a Europe that feels under siege owing to growing migration flows, the prelate gave new impetus to the commitment of opening doors – and hearts – to those fleeing from poverty, war, from Countries that appear to deny fundamental rights. The invitation is to connect our extended our hands to the refugees with the Christian faith: a “Church without border, mother of everyone – he said, echoing the words of Pope Bergoglio – spreads the culture of welcome and solidarity within the cultural realm”. A deeply felt problem. On June 30 Card. Bozanic opened the meeting of the directors for the pastoral care of migrants of the Bishops’ Conference of Europe promoted by CCEE in Vilnius (ongoing until July 2). In the Lithuanian capital arrived some forty delegates from 21 bishops’ conferences, representatives of the Holy See (Pontifical Council of the Pastoral care of migrants and itinerant persons) and Christian NGOs operating in this field. Items on the agenda include the “migration emergency” in the old continent, a pastoral and charitable evaluation, the comparison between different visions and experiences according to the Country of residence. It is no mystery that in areas with larger migration flows the public opinion and the faithful and much more reactive, while there are Countries that simply intend to close their borders, leaving the “problem” in the hands of more exposed countries, such as those bordering on the Mediterranean and those on Eastern borders. “To welcome is to create a relationship”. In this framework Bozanic, who opened the meeting in his capacities as president of the “migration” sector of the CCEE Commission “Caritas in Veritate”, went straight to the evangelical message. He said: while it’s true that “what we do onto others we also do to Jesus, welcoming a refugee or a migrant, just like welcoming a pilgrim, “means to receive” the Lord thereby “welcoming the gift of his Salvation”. “Welcoming – the cardinal continued – implies the recognition of a human relationship, welcoming someone we care for means recognising the value of the welcomed person”. “Only those who do not loose the infinite value of the person before them is capable of reception”. Follows an emphasis of the “concrete” sphere of reception: “human dignity is not an abstract value, it always bears the face of a real person, in flesh and blood”. His Eminence underlined: “in a world where individualism tends to close each one of us within their own bunker”, welcome is a duty: we are not welcoming a “problem” but “a human being with inalienable dignity and value”. Integration, stability. When welcome becomes an encounter “that prompts a new relationship” there is the need for an education of acceptance across society and within the Christian community alike, since “welcome also means integration”, which “expresses the wish to confer stability to those arriving”. Bozanic added: the challenge of welcome isn’t addressed only to those arriving as strangers in our Countries, it also involves all those called to welcome”, who “with patience and love must be understood and embraced to be encouraged to open up to the newcomers”. The task of politics. The Croatian archbishop doesn’t neglect the fact that “welcome will always be the fountainhead of many new challenges” and therefore “it will require a lot of creativity that will never be disconnected from reality and from the context in which we operate with wisdom”. The analysis thus extends to our present times, to contemporary Europe where thousands of refugees seek shelter from wars and poverty: from the Middle East, Ukraine, and the Cardinal pointed out, “from many African Countries”. Before this situation, “we see that Europe is often confused, lacking a real culture of welcome and true solidarity among its Countries”. In this context “the Church feels the urgent call to proclaim the Gospel” starting with the testimony of those working in the field of reception. “But cannot stop reminding our leaders – added the archbishop of Zagreb – that the political realm has the duty to find solutions that will promote welcome with individual responsibility, and it’s the duty of European political leaders to be committed to help solve situations of war and poverty on our doorstep devoid of egoistic and hypocritical behaviours”.

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