Vatican cardinal urges Catholics to 'open eyes' to 'invisible' internally displaced people

Vatican cardinal urges Catholics to “open eyes” to “invisible” internally displaced people

(Source: CD/Vatican News)

The “fundamental orientation” of the Vatican’s new Pastoral Orientations on Internally Displaced People “is to open our eyes and discover the displaced people nearby and far away”, says Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, Under-secretary at the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Following the presentation of the new Pastoral Orientations on Tuesday, Cardinal Czerny spoke with Sr Bernadette Reis of Vatican News.

Seeing those who are invisible

He said the first pastoral response to internally displaced persons (IDPs) is to “see those who until now have been invisible”.

Because of the unique situation of internally displaced persons – people who have been uprooted and forced to leave their homes but have not crossed international borders – it is easy for them to be ignored or overlooked.

Sometimes internally displaced people are clustered together and might look like refugees. “Others have disappeared into the cities” and are “practically invisible to their neighbours”, Czerny said.

The cardinal added that it is important for the Church “to recognise them, reach out to them, and then meet the needs… remembering always [that] these [people] are also citizens of the same country that we’re in and therefore we might not take their problems so seriously. But in fact, they are in great need”.

Welcome, protect, promote, integrate

In preparing the new Pastoral Orientations, the Migrants and Refugees Section then “applied the Holy Father’s very solid doctrine to their situation”, asking the question, “When we discover these people, what can we do for them?”

Cardinal Czerny gave the answer: “We can welcome them, protect them, promote them, and integrate them”.

Asked about what Catholics can do concretely to help internally displaced persons, Cardinal Czerny said, “The best thing would be to get in touch with someone in the Church who’s working with migrants and refugees. Often the word ‘displaced’ is not in their title, but that’s included implicitly”.

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He said that raising the issue of displaced persons in the local churches will lead to responses as to how best to address the particular circumstances in each situation.

When we do that, Cardinal Czerny said, “people will be surprised to discover the IDPs among them, but will also be surprised to discover how the Church is trying already to respond and how they can help”.

Full interview with Cardinal Czerny:

Below please find a transcription of Cardinal Michael Czerny’s interview with Sr Bernadette Reis:

Can you give us a general sense of the new document? What are the overarching “pastoral orientations” the title speaks of?

The fundamental orientation is to open our eyes and discover that the displaced people nearby and far away. So that’s the first: let’s see those who until now have been invisible.

And then we’ve applied the Holy Father’s very solid doctrine to that situation and said, “When we discover these people what can we do for them?” We can welcome them, protect them, promote them and integrate them.

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The pastoral orientations identify numerous challenges regarding IDPs. Which, in your opinion, are some of the most important priorities for the Church to address right away?

I would say the most important one is a to get to know the IDPs that we’re talking about in each particular situation, and respond to their needs, because the situations are different.

There are IDPs who are clustered, and in some ways would look to ordinary people like refugees. Others have disappeared into the cities and are completely, you might say practically, invisible to their neighbours.

So for the Church to recognise them, reach out to them, and then meet the needs – which might be educational, might be health, might be just human, pastoral, might be any number of things – remembering always [that] these [people] are also citizens of the same country that we’re in and therefore we might not take their problems so seriously.

But in fact, they are in great need.

What can the average Catholic do, concretely speaking, to help internally displaced persons, both in their own countries but also throughout the world?

The best thing would be to get in touch with someone in the Church who’s working with migrants and refugees. Often the word “displaced” is not in their title, but that’s included implicitly.

And with the distribution of this booklet now throughout the Church — because it’s written for the dioceses, for the Church — people will be also more alert to that. And by asking about it in your local church situation, that raises the question and the responses will come.

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And we’ll be surprised, people will be surprised to discover, the IDPs among them, but also will be surprised to discover how the Church is trying already to respond and how then they can help.

To learn more about the new Vatican Pastoral Orientations on Internally Displaced People, follow this link to the Migrants and Refugees Section website

More on Novena on the drama of Internally Displaced People:

Caritas warns number of starving in world could double as a result of COVID-19, reach 230 million

Vatican calls for world’s 50 million internally displaced people to be given same rights as refugees

Jesus, too, was a refugee: Pope to highlight plight of 41 million internally displaced people for World Day of Migrants 27 September

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