What does the Catholic Church say about immigrants and refugees?
Welcoming the stranger is not just an optional part of being a Christian. It is what we are called to do as Christians. The Jewish people in the Old Testament were a migrant people, and the need to welcome the migrant was a key part of how they lived. The moral imperative to love the stranger recurs three dozen times in the Pentateuch. As Pope Francis reminds us in his Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018 , “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25: 35-43)”.
It is not surprising, then, that the Catholic Church is involved in welcoming immigrants and refugees, both locally and internationally. In the 1970’s, many parishes of the diocese of Gatineau opened their doors to Vietnamese ‘boat people’. Today, Syrian refugees are knocking at our doors. Many parishes in the Archdiocese of Gatineau have mobilized to sponsor and welcome Syrian refugees. Some of these parishes actually sponsored more than one family. Others actively worked with our Muslim brothers and sisters on the Comité de dialogue islamo-chrétien to sponsor two Syrian refugee families – one Muslim and the other Christian. These efforts of mobilization are an important expression of being followers of Jesus today.
Faced with recent waves of asylum seekers fleeing the United States, the Bishops of Quebec prepared a message on welcoming refugees, entitled Asylum Seekers. In this document, the bishops recognize that the need to welcome refugees will be an increasingly permanent feature of our society, calling on Christians to concrete action with other civil society actors.
For a few years now, Gatineau has been the second most popular destination for immigrants in Quebec. We have welcomed waves of immigrants from Portugal, Lebanon, Latin America, Haiti and francophone Africa. Immigration changes the demographics, not only of our cities and villages, but also of our parishes, since many immigrants are Catholics. They bring with them the richness of their cultures and traditions. Welcoming and integrating immigrants in our Christian communities is both an ongoing constant challenge and an opportunity for growth and renewal.
In his letter on the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2018) entitled Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace, Pope Francis reminded us that there are 22.5 million refugees in the world. He launched this invitation to all of us:
In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.
The office at the Vatican which advises Pope Francis on issues of migration proposes a set of 20 Pastoral Action Points and 20 Action Points for the Global Compacts These provide concrete leads for implementing the four actions – to welcome, to protect, to promote, to integrate – in the attitudes and actions of Christian communities and of all those concerned with those who are forced to flee, and in international and national policies.
Further sources on the Catholic Church and migrants and refugees include:
- The Migrants & Refugees Section is a small action-oriented Vatican office personally directed by Pope Francis.
- Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, 14 January 2018;
- Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Celebration of the 51st World Day of Peace, 1 January 2018;
- Message on the Welcoming of Refugees from the Conseil Église et Société (Council on Church and Society) of the Québec Assembly of Catholic Bishops - Asylum Seekers , October 2017.
- the Pastoral Letter of Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) on welcoming refugees - I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me , 26 October 2015;
- Pastoral Letter of the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on Immigration and the Protection of Refugees: We are aliens and transients before the Lord our God” January 15, 2006
- the reference document of the Pontifical Council for Ministry to Immigrants: Erga migrantes caritas Christi, 2004.
To support one of the Canadian Catholic organizations who help Syrian refugees throughout the world:
Immigrants and Refugees in the City of Gatineau
Gatineau is now the City in Quebec which receives the second greatest number of immigrants every year. Here are some resources which might be of interest to those who are new immigrants in Gatineau.
- Consult the information guide on welcoming and integrating new citizens to the city of Gatineau.
- Discover the profile of the immigrant population of the city of Gatineau.
- Explore the history of immigration to Gatineau from 1800 to 2010
- Visit the website of l’Accueil parrainage-Outaouais
- Discover a home-grown multicultural liturgical choir by visiting the Facebook page of the Chorale gospel de l’Outaouais.