Welcoming the stranger

 Many people who come to Europe seeking asylum are not Christian. In order to provide appropriate pastoral care, the Church needs to be more aware of the multi-cultural, multi-faith backgrounds of refugees and develop strategies accordingly. This was the view of 19 national directors for the Pastoral care of Migrants, who met in Strasbourg recently at the invitation of Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE). The meeting was presided over by Mgr Fernand Franck, the Archbishop of Luxembourg. In contrast with Cardinal Giacomo Biffi's recent outburst demanding an end to non-Christian immigration to Europe, which he said was destabilising society, the meeting took a more constructive approach. Taking as a starting point a report by Swiss national director Dr Urs Koppel, analysing changes in migration in Europe and the Church's work in this field, together with a report on global migration by Fr Loreto De Paolis from the Pontifical Council for Migration, the meeting examined the following key points: * migrants are creating a society which is increasingly multicultural and multi-religious. * parish communities, particularly in inner cities, instead of welcoming immigrants, are now often made up largely of immigrants. * growing racism can be observed in some communities, even where immigrants form a minority. The meeting then examined a wide-ranging series of topics including the need to develop new missionary efforts in parishes; the role of the media in community relations; the special problems associated with the trafficking of women and the need to develop ecumenical collaboration in the pastoral care of migrants. A report on the pastoral care of migrants will be presented at the next meeting of the Plenary assembly of CCEE in Louvain at the end of this month.

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