Wednesday, February 7, 2018

32nd national Migrants Sunday (18 February 2018)


[14 January 2018]

“Welcoming, protecting, promoting and 
integrating migrants and refugees”

Dear brothers and sisters!

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

Throughout the first years of my pontificate, I have repeatedly expressed my particular concern for the lamentable situation of many migrants and refugees fleeing from war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty.  This situation is undoubtedly a “sign of the times” which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit, ever since my visit to Lampedusa on 8 July 2013.  When I instituted the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, I wanted a particular section – under my personal direction for the time being – to express the Church’s concern for migrants, displaced people, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

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).  The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future.[1]  This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return.  This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.

In this regard, I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate”.[2]

Considering the current situation, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.  This calls for a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families.  At the same time, I hope that a greater number of countries will adopt private and community sponsorship programmes, and open humanitarian corridors for particularly vulnerable refugees.  Furthermore, special temporary visas should be granted to people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring countries.  Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.[3]  Once again, I want to emphasise the importance of offering migrants and refugees adequate and dignified initial accommodation.  “More widespread programmes of welcome, already initiated in different places, seem to favour a personal encounter and allow for greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success”.[4]  The principle of the centrality of the human person, firmly stated by my beloved Predecessor, Benedict XVI,[5] obliges us to always prioritise personal safety over national security.  It is necessary, therefore, to ensure that agents in charge of border control are properly trained.  The situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees requires that they be guaranteed personal safety and access to basic services.  For the sake of the fundamental dignity of every human person, we must strive to find alternative solutions to detention for those who enter a country without authorisation.[6]

The second verb – protecting – may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.[7]  Such protection begins in the country of origin, and consists in offering reliable and verified information before departure, and in providing safety from illegal recruitment practices.[8]  This must be ongoing, as far as possible, in the country of migration, guaranteeing them adequate consular assistance, the right to personally retain their identity documents at all times, fair access to justice, the possibility of opening a personal bank account, and a minimum sufficient to live on.  When duly recognised and valued, the potential and skills of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are a true resource for the communities that welcome them.[9]  This is why I hope that, in countries of arrival, migrants may be offered freedom of movement, work opportunities, and access to means of communication, out of respect for their dignity.  For those who decide to return to their homeland, I want to emphasise the need to develop social and professional reintegration programmes.  The International Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a universal legal basis for the protection of underage migrants.  They must be spared any form of detention related to migratory status, and must be guaranteed regular access to primary and secondary education.  Equally, when they come of age they must be guaranteed the right to remain and to enjoy the possibility of continuing their studies.  Temporary custody or foster programmes should be provided for unaccompanied minors and minors separated from their families.[10]  The universal right to a nationality should be recognised and duly certified for all children at birth.  The statelessness which migrants and refugees sometimes fall into can easily be avoided with the adoption of “nationality legislation that is in conformity with the fundamental principles of international law”.[11]  Migratory status should not limit access to national healthcare and pension plans, nor affect the transfer of their contributions if repatriated.

Promoting essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings, in all the dimensions which constitute the humanity intended by the Creator.[12]  Among these, we must recognize the true value of the religious dimension, ensuring to all foreigners in any country the freedom of religious belief and practice.   Many migrants and refugees have abilities which must be appropriately recognised and valued.  Since “work, by its nature, is meant to unite peoples”,[13] I encourage a determined effort to promote the social and professional inclusion of migrants and refugees, guaranteeing for all – including those seeking asylum – the possibility of employment, language instruction and active citizenship, together with sufficient information provided in their mother tongue.  In the case of underage migrants, their involvement in labour must be regulated to prevent exploitation and risks to their normal growth and development.  In 2006, Benedict XVI highlighted how, in the context of migration, the family is “a place and resource of the culture of life and a factor for the integration of values”.[14]  The family’s integrity must always be promoted, supporting family reunifications – including grandparents, grandchildren and siblings – independent of financial requirements.  Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities must be granted greater assistance and support.  While I recognize the praiseworthy efforts, thus far, of many countries, in terms of international cooperation and humanitarian aid, I hope that the offering of this assistance will take into account the needs (such as medical and social assistance, as well as education) of developing countries which receive a significant influx of migrants and refugees.  I also hope that local communities which are vulnerable and facing material hardship, will be included among aid beneficiaries.[15]

The final verb – integrating – concerns the opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees.  Integration is not “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’, to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better.  This is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings”.[16]  This process can be accelerated by granting citizenship free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalisation to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival.  I reiterate the need to foster a culture of encounter in every way possible – by increasing opportunities for intercultural exchange, documenting and disseminating best practices of integration, and developing programmes to prepare local communities for integration processes.   I wish to stress the special case of people forced to abandon their country of arrival due to a humanitarian crisis.  These people must be ensured adequate assistance for repatriation and effective reintegration programmes in their home countries.

In line with her pastoral tradition, the Church is ready to commit herself to realising all the initiatives proposed above.  Yet in order to achieve the desired outcome, the contribution of political communities and civil societies is indispensable, each according to their own responsibilities.

At the United Nations Summit held in New York on 19 September 2016, world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level.  To this end, the states committed themselves to drafting and approving, before the end of 2018, two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants.

Dear brothers and sisters, in light of these processes currently underway, the coming months offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support the concrete actions which I have described with four verbs.  I invite you, therefore, to use every occasion to share this message with all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts.

Today, 15 August, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.  The Holy Mother of God herself experienced the hardship of exile (Matthew 2:13-15), lovingly accompanied her Son’s journey to Calvary, and now shares eternally his glory.  To her maternal intercession we entrust the hopes of all the world’s migrants and refugees and the aspirations of the communities which welcome them, so that, responding to the Lord’s supreme commandment, we may all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.

Vatican City, 15 August 2017

Solemnity of the Assumption of the B.V. Mary


[1] Cf. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia, Titulus Primus, I.

[2]  Address to Participants in the International Forum on “Migration and Peace”, 21 February 2017.

[3] Cf. Statement of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the 103rd Session of the Council of the IOM, 26 November 2013.

[4]  Address to Participants in the International Forum on “Migration and Peace”, 21 February 2017.

[5] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 47.

[6] Cf.   Statement of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the 20th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 22 June 2012.

[7] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 62.

[8] Cf. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, 6.

[9] Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the 6th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 9 November 2009.

[10] Cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2010) and Statement of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the 26th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights of Migrants, 13 June 2014.

[11] Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, 2013, 70.

[12] Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 14.

[13] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 27.

[14] Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2007).

[15] Cf. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, 2013, 30-31.

[16] John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2005).

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Non-Catholic Christian Communities with valid baptisms

The CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith updated the list of non-Catholic Christian Communities with valid baptisms in the CBCP last November 2017.  These are as follows:

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

CBCP pastoral guidelines for discerning the moral dimension of the present-day moves for Charter change

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor. 3:17)

Beloved People of God:


To change or not to change the Constitution, that is the fermenting political question of the day. The move for Charter change is, and has been, the proposed vehicle to adopt Federalism as a new form of government. But ignored in the welter of political opinions regarding Charter change is the fundamental moral dimension of this human political act.

Today, encouraged by the Social Doctrine of the Church, as articulated in the teachings of many Popes,[1] as well as in the teachings of PCP-II, we wish to make our moral stand clear and forthright.

A Long-Standing CBCP Position on Charter Change

On the matter of changing the 1987 Constitution, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has declared its moral stand not only once but at least five times since 1987.

We began with a moral judgment in 1986 declaring that, though imperfect, the provisions of the draft 1987 Constitution were consistent with the Gospel.

In subsequent attempts at Charter change by our legislators,[2] our moral stand was and remains consistent, namely:

Amending the fundamental law of the land, so carefully crafted for the common good after years of dictatorship, requires widespread peoples’ participation and consultation, unity of vision, transparency, and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate.

A Moral Critique of the Charter Change Movement

From the moral teachings of the Church, four principles stand out as bases for moral judgment on this current move towards Charter change.

1. The Principle of Human Dignity[3] and Human Rights[4]

Human rights flow from the God-given dignity of the human person. Men and Women are all created in the image of God. The human person is sacred, bearing the imprint of the Divine. In the 1987 Constitution are enshrined fundamental human rights that correspond to Christian values based on the Gospel.

Given present developments and trends in legislation where pro-life principles are even now being undermined, we are deeply concerned that such principles, which are consistent with the fundamental nature of marriage and the family, and which are now enshrined in the 1987 Constitution are most  likely to be overturned.

2. The Principle of Integrity and Truth[5]

This moral principle requires total transparency and accountability, clarity and purity of motives. When the move for Charter change becomes self-serving, such as when it calls for “No-El” (no elections) and pushes for an extension of terms of office, it is to be expected that citizens would react with suspicion, astonishment and exasperation.

In addition the feeling of a creeping dictatorship is conjured by past experience. Moreover, political dynasties are really and factually becoming a dominant factor in our country’s political life.

3. The Principle of Participation[6]  and Solidarity[7]

Participation is at the heart of democracy. Clearly, a move for Charter change that involves transforming the Congress into a Constituent Assembly is bound to be deficient of widespread peoples’ participation, discussion, and consultation. It would be totally rash for members of Congress to presume the reasoned approval of their constituents on so grave an issue as the move to overhaul the nation’s Charter.

When such a situation arises, the principle of solidarity is patently violated. Solidarity is the “persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good” for we are responsible for one another.[8] This principle summons us to protect one another’s rights and to work together for the good of the family, the community, and of the nation.

4.  The Principle of the Common Good[9]

The principle of the common good is linked intimately with social justice. To work for social justice is to strive for the common good. Without social justice, the common good is not attained. The thematic framework of the 1987 Constitution is in fact social justice, as one framer of the 1987 Constitution has rightly asserted.  Apparently, the intention of some legislators to revise the 1987 Constitution might indeed be the common good. But lack of participation, lack of transparency, as well as perceived promotion of self-interests contravene this intention.

Moreover, a full understanding of the common good goes beyond mere political, social, or economic good. Our moral teaching describes the common good as “the sum total of social conditions which allow a people, either as groups or individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”.[10] Thus the common good would include defense and promotion by the State of fundamental moral values regarding human dignity, human rights, and religious freedom – necessary paths to full human life. A rash move for a new Constitution places these moral values in extreme peril.

Of significance is the fact that PCP-II listed the following as the first two requirements for lay participation in political leadership:[11] “that the basic standard for participation be the pursuit of the common good; that participation be characterized by a defense and promotion of justice.”

Convergence of the Moral and Political Critique

If the Constitution is to be revised at all, the process should lead to a greater defense and promotion of the above-mentioned moral values of human dignity and human rights, integrity and truth, participation and solidarity, and the common good.

These are the moral translations of the political critique on Charter change, to wit, the broadening and deepening of the differentiated institutions of democracy, the enhancing of the separation and distinction of various forms of state powers, the fostering of social justice, the resolution of issues of massive poverty, corruption, patronage politics, political dynasties, centralization of power in the  so-called “imperial Manila,” and the blatant disregard for human rights (e.g., in the campaign against illegal drugs).

It is hopefully with these aspirations in mind that the members of the consultative committee recently appointed by the President to review the 1987 Constitution carry out the task expected of them.

Alternatives to Charter Change

As servant leaders, we have listened to many others who believe that the solution to these problems is not a revision of the Constitution, but a full implementation of the 1987 Constitution (e.g., on political dynasties & on freedom of information), and a revision of the Local Government Code, originally designed to devolve power from central authority, following the moral principle of subsidiarity.

We have also heard the views of those who believe that the solution we seek is ultimately the transformation of our political culture, the eradication of a political mindset of personalities, pay-offs, and patronage – a culture that is entrenched in our present political structures and practices. Without conversion of mindsets, the new political wine of Charter change will remain in old political wine-skins, and merely end up bursting the hope for a new political culture.

On Federalism

The reported objective of Charter change is to shift from a unitary to a parliamentary form of government in various shapes that would govern federal states. It is often claimed that there is a necessity of devolving powers from the central government to Federal States.

We ask the question: is it necessary to change the Charter in order to devolve power? Many constitutional and legal experts do not seem to think so. What is truly needed for a genuine devolution of power according to them, is a full implementation of the Constitution, the creation of enabling laws, and some revisions on the Local Government Code, and a more decisive effecting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. Only these, they believe, can ensure that self-determination and decentralization of powers, both political and financial, are in fact realized.

Moreover a major objection to a federal system that devolves power to the Federal States on an equal basis will not satisfactorily address the aspirations of the Muslims and Lumads in Mindanao for self-determination and respect for ancestral rights.

Gift of the Spirit – Freedom to do Good and not Evil

St. Paul speaks of freedom that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a freedom towards life and not towards death, a freedom not to do evil but to do good. Political authority is God-given and is designed to defend, promote, and ensure what is good.

When political power is exercised for this task, it fulfills what God intends with this gift.  There the Spirit of God operates and there the freedom of God’s children flourishes. When political authority fails to do what is good, there the spirit of God is absent. We should not then be surprised when properly formed consciences declare in the manner of Peter and the other apostles, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:9)

Conclusion:   Discern, Decide, and Act with Mary our Mother

We call upon you, dear People of God, to form or reactivate circles of discernment and use your freedom as God’s children to discern, participate, discuss, and debate. Have an informed conscience and decide in the light of Gospel values. Do what is necessary. Persuade our legislators to do only what is genuinely for the good of all on this issue of Charter change.

We entrust this urgent moral task that seriously impacts the future of our nation to the intercession of our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, Reyna ng Pilipinas.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

+Romulo G. Valles
Archbishop of Davao
President, CBCP
January 29, 2018
Mandaue City, Cebu

[1] Cf. for instance Pope Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

[2] In 1997, 2003, 2006, and 2017.

[3]Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC], # 109, 111, 132.

[4] CSDC #153

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] # 2468

[6] CSDC # 190-91

[7] CSDC # 193

[8] Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #38

[9] CSDC # 164, 168

[10] Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes # 26

[11] PCP II # 351