“Migrants are a necessity and an asset for Portugal”, a bishop has proclaimed from the Marian sanctuary of Fátima.

– Migrants “are not to be exploited or badly treated, but welcomed and protected”

“As Christians, let us manifest our capacity for welcoming and not cultivate feelings that do not correspond to our Christian model of universal fraternity”, Bishop José Traquina of the Santarém diocese urged Catholics gathered August 12 for the vigil that takes place as part of the traditional August pilgrimage.

Traquina – the Portuguese Bishops’ point man for social issues and migration – insisted that new arrivals to the country are “not to be exploited or badly treated, but welcomed and protected with the same respect that we wish for Portuguese people who live in any other country”.

Citing governmental figures that indicate that there are almost 600,000 migrants presently living in Portugal, the Santarém bishop emphasised the importance of foreigners being “informed about our rules and habits of coexistence”, on the one hand, but being given “the conditions to express their culture”, on the other.

Given the large – and often precarious – presence of migrants in the country, Traquina called on the different Portuguese dioceses to extend their work of “accompaniment and support” for new arrivals.

– World’s “millions” of poor and exploited have “the right” to celebrate life

Bishop Traquina returned to the theme of supporting migrants and refugees in a sermon August 13 for the pilgrimage Mass, clamouring that the world’s “millions” of poor, refugees and “exploited” migrants all have “the right” to celebrate life instead of being forced into suffering.

“The millions of poor people around the world; the millions of refugees who have to flee like Jesus in order to have life; the migrants who, because they do not know the legal ways to emigrate, are exploited by smugglers and traffickers; the millions of people forcibly displaced within their own country for lack of security: all of them have the right to a wedding feast”, the Santarém bishop insisted.

Traquina urged pilgrims to have that “indestructible love” that is celebrated in every Eucharist, “the great sacrament of the Church that arouses and nourishes apostolic zeal and the practice of charity”.

The bishop also prayed that Our Lady – under her title of “comfort of migrants” – may “accompany and intercede for all those who seek a future of life with greater Light and where the feast of life is possible”.

– Portuguese Church denounces “constant marginalisation and chronic poverty” of migrants

Traquina’s insistence on the theme of migrants and refugees at the August Fátima pilgrimage this year coincided with the National Migrations Week the Portuguese Church is holding from August 9-16.

Speaking about that commemoration to Vatican News, president of the Portuguese Church’s Justice and Peace Commission Pedro Vaz Patto said that the intention of the event is to “meditate in depth on the Pope’s request to take special care of those who have been forced to flee their land because of war and poverty”.

Getting to know migrants and refugees “is the first step in reaching these people. They are people we don’t know and knowledge leads to the elimination of fear and distance”, Vaz Patto explained.

The Portuguese Church Justice and Peace Commission president denounced that migrants in the country suffer “constant marginalisation and chronic poverty”.

He cited the example of foreign agricultural workers labouring in areas in the country where the native-born Portuguese labour force is insufficient – migrant workers, he deplored, who are very often taken advantage of.

“Very often there is the suspicion that they really are leading a degrading life”, Vaz Patto decried with respect to the sufferings of migrant day labourers.

More on Novena on the Church’s care for migrants and refugees:

“One does not let any single human drown, end of discussion”: German Church refugee rescue ship sets sail in Mediterranean

Vatican cardinal backs German abbess prosecuted for sheltering refugees: “God bless her!”

German abbess charged with “aiding and abetting illegal residents”: “To give concrete help to a person in need can’t be a crime”

Vatican official backs as possible “win-win situation” the “mass regularisation” of ‘illegal’ immigrants


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.