Young migrants bring vitality, need support, synod members say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Juan Medina, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Helping young migrants hold fast to
their cultural and religious identity, especially in situations where they are
a minority, was a recurring topic at the Synod of Bishops.

Sacrament Father Robert Stark, director of the Office for Social Ministry for the Diocese of Honolulu
and regional coordinator for the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section,
offered synod members very practical advice for assisting young people on the

First, he said Oct. 16, church workers must listen to young
people thinking about leaving their homelands and inform them of the dangers.
Second, the church should offer food, shelter and safety to young people in
transit. And, when they arrive at their destination, the young should be helped
with legal assistance and language classes.

“At each phase of their journey, young migrants pass
through different dioceses but — from beginning to end — they can be in the
same loving, caring church,” Father Stark told the synod.

Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, representing the North African bishops’
conference, told the synod that many of the dioceses of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria
and Morocco are thriving today because of the young African Catholics who come
to their countries for university studies or while awaiting an opportunity to
migrate to Europe.

“These young people have given vitality and joy to our
churches and have helped them maturity spiritually, becoming ‘the church of
encounter,’ ‘the church of welcome’ and of listening,” he said.

Christians are a miniscule minority in North Africa and must
live their faith with “great discretion” among a Muslim majority that
often considers them “infidels, unbelievers or worse.”

But by allowing themselves “to be evangelized by their
Muslim brothers, that is, to learn their culture and religion,” he said,
they learn the tolerance, friendship and cooperation that are essential to
building a peaceful society.

“Our young people discover in this way that different
religions are no longer an insurmountable obstacle but become a different path
to the one God we all adore,” Archbishop Antoniazzi said.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, pleaded
with his Latin-rite brothers to help migrants from the Eastern Catholic
churches maintain their ties to their cultures and to preserve “their
liturgical, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony.”

For Lebanese Christians, he said, part of that culture has
been and must continue to be “promoting interreligious dialogue, which is
a dialogue of life, culture and destiny with the Muslims.”

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