From the Cardinal: May we embrace our migrant sisters, brothers| September 22, 2023
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Vol. 5. No. 1
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
September 18–24 is National Migration Week here in the United States of America. This is a time for all of us to grow in our understanding of the challenges facing individuals and families in many different regions of the world who are forced to leave their homeland because of natural disasters or economic, political and cultural factors beyond their control. This Week should also remind us of the responsibilities we have because of what we hear from the Word of God and the consistent Tradition of our Church.
For the past ten years, Pope Francis has urged us to pay closer attention to the circumstances surrounding the migration of peoples. He has challenged us to actually see the faces of these brothers and sisters of ours rather than regard them as simply statistics or, worse, problems imposed on us by forces outside our control. “Migrants flee because of poverty, fear or desperation,” the Holy Father says. “Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each. This commitment begins with asking what we can do, but also what we need to stop doing.”
Let’s use this time of national reflection to ask ourselves—individually and as communities—what we can do and what we should stop doing to welcome and assist our migrant sisters and brothers. In this newsletter are several links that can be used to access helpful resources. Please take advantage of these. Thank you and God bless you.
Sincerely yours in Christ the Redeemer,
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Newark
Cardinal’s Message on Participating in the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome during the month of October 2023
Peace be with you.
As many of you know, I have been asked to participate in the Synod of Bishops that is being held in Rome during the month of October. This important gathering—which will include lay people, members of Religious Orders, priests and deacons, as well as bishops—represents a “fundamental stage” in the synodal journey initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021.
During the past two years, there have been widespread consultations at the local, national and international levels regarding the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” A preparatory document that summarizes these discussions has been published to provide background information for the meeting this October. To better understand all of these discussions, you can find this information on our archdiocesan website.
Many people have asked me what “synodality” means and why it is decisive for the life and mission of our Church. Synodality means “journeying together.” The Church has gathered in synods since its very beginning for the purpose of effectively carrying out her mission to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and peoples. As Pope Francis reminds us frequently, our journeying together is what manifests the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God.
Every baptized Christian is called to be a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ. This means that all of us are co-responsible for the Church’s mission. And it is vitally important for us to listen to each other respectfully in order to discern what the Word of God is saying to us here and now as we confront the challenges and opportunities of life in the 21st century. The conversations taking place in Rome next month will be based on three fundamental questions: First, how can we be united, not divided, as missionary disciples? Second, how can we effectively carry out the Church’s mission in today’s world? And third, what do we need to do to engage ALL Christians fully and actively in the mission and ministry of Jesus?
Ideas generated during the Synod next month will be the subject of further discussions in local diocesan communities throughout the world next year in preparation for the Synod’s final session in October 2024. Please pray for Pope Francis and for all of us who will participate in the Synod next month. May the Holy Spirit who guides the Church’s journey through history help us to listen prayerfully to the Word of God and to engage in fruitful dialogue with one another for the good of all humanity and for the protection and care of our common home. Thank you, and God bless you.
In a world marked by immense suffering, the plight of migrants and refugees stands out as a pressing global issue. The World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) is an opportunity for global church and the Catholic faithful to engage in prayer, reflection, and action on behalf of our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee their homes. National Migration Week is a uniquely US-based celebration that builds on the ideas put forth in WDMR and shaped accordingly to American public. In 2023 we will celebrate National Migration Week September 18 – 24, which culminates with WDMR that Sunday the 24th.
This year’s theme, “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay,” shines a light on the root causes that drive migration. In many instances, war and conflict have left people with no option but to abandon their homes and seek safety elsewhere. The Syrian conflict, for example, displaced millions, creating one of the largest refugee crises in modern history. More recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom fled to neighboring countries in search of safety. In both cases, migration is not a choice, but a necessity for survival.
Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of understanding the systemic factors that contribute to forced migration, such as political instability, economic inequality, and persecution. Through advocacy, education, and charitable works, Catholic faithful can work to create a world where individuals and families are free to choose whether to migrate or stay in their homelands. By addressing these issues, we can help create the conditions for people to live in safety and dignity, regardless of where they call home.
Let us use this National Migration Week and World Day of Migrants and Refugees as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the complex issues driving forced migration and to renew our commitment to building a just and inclusive world. (Source: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/national-migration-week-2023)
- Pope Francis’ message for World Day for Migrants and Refuges: www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/20230511-world-migrants-day-2023.html
- Background material from the USCCB on World Day for Migrants and Refugees. www.justiceforimmigrants.org/national-migration-week-2023/
- A parish tool kit with material that can be shared with your parish. www.justiceforimmigrants.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/NMW-Toolkit.pdf
- The Archdiocese of Newark’s Office of Social Concerns provides additional information and resources at www.rcan.org/social-concerns/
- News coverage about Migration Week on Jersey Catholic
A Message from Pope Francis: Words of Challenge and Hope
A selection from the Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees
September 24, 2023
Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay
Dear brothers and sisters!
The migratory flows of our times are the expression of a complex and varied phenomenon that, to be properly understood, requires a careful analysis of every aspect of its different stages, from departure to arrival, including the possibility of return.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2:13). The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt was not the result of a free decision, nor were many of the migrations that marked the history of the people of Israel. The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not. Conflicts, natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave.
“They took their livestock and the goods that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him” (Gen 46:6). A grave famine forced Jacob and his entire family to seek refuge in Egypt, where his son Joseph ensured their survival. Persecutions, wars, atmospheric phenomena and dire poverty are among the most visible causes of forced migrations today. Migrants flee because of poverty, fear or desperation. Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each. This commitment begins with asking what we can do, but also what we need to stop doing. We need to make every effort to halt the arms race, economic colonialism, the plundering of other people’s resources and the devastation of our common home.
“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). The ideal of the first Christian community seems so distant from today’s reality! To make migration a choice that is truly free, efforts must be made to ensure to everyone an equal share in the common good, respect for his or her fundamental rights, and access to an integral human development. Only in this way will we be able to offer to each person the possibility of a dignified and fulfilling life, whether individually or within families. Clearly, the principal responsibility falls to the countries of origin and their leaders, who are called to practice a good politics – one that is transparent, honest, farsighted and at the service of all, especially those most vulnerable. At the same time, they must be empowered to do this, without finding themselves robbed of their natural and human resources and without outside interference aimed at serving the interests of a few. Where circumstances make possible a decision either to migrate or to stay, there is a need to ensure that the decision be well informed and carefully considered, in order to avoid great numbers of men, women and children falling victim to perilous illusions or unscrupulous traffickers.
“In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property” (Lev 25:13). For the people of Israel, the celebration of the jubilee year represented an act of collective justice: “everyone was allowed to return to their original situation, with the cancellation of all debts, restoration of the land, and an opportunity once more to enjoy the freedom proper to the members of the People of God” (Catechesis, 10 February 2016). As we approach the Holy Year of 2025, we do well to remember this aspect of the jubilee celebrations.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36). These words are a constant admonition to see in the migrant not simply a brother or sister in difficulty, but Christ himself, who knocks at our door. Consequently, even as we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision, we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant; this entails accompanying and managing waves of migration as best we can, constructing bridges and not walls, expanding channels for a safe and regular migration. In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.
The synodal path that we have undertaken as a Church leads us to see in those who are most vulnerable – among whom are many migrants and refugees – special companions on our way, to be loved and cared for as brothers and sisters. Only by walking together will we be able to go far and reach the common goal of our journey.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 11 May 2023
My Prayer for You
Please join me in praying this Synod Prayer for an Open-Hearted Church:
Jesus, we see you in the Gospels
welcoming everyone who was close to you,
like the man with evil spirits or the man with the withered hand.
We see You walking with the disciples of Emmaus
or giving comfort to the widow
who has lost her only child.
You taught us to embrace life as it comes,
to focus on people,
no matter who they are or what they have experienced.
Give us your grace and your light
to imprint “your style” in the Church,
to understand the others as they are
to understand them from the depths of their hearts
beyond their words and actions.
May we be an open-hearted Church,
a Church that is receptive and walks with others.