VATICAN City, Oct. 12, 2014—An emotional Filipino churchman related his “traumatic experiences” of airports, associating the place with Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) forced to leave their families behind to find greener pastures abroad.
Talking to Catholic News Service (CNS) at the Vatican on Tuesday, Oct. 7, Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle shared he has been a witness to these “heart-breaking” scenes.
“You know the airport has become a traumatic place for me. Not because of my travels and the dangers, but to see and hear, especially mothers talking to their children at the airport, bidding them goodbye. And you could see how their hearts are broken,” he said.
Tagle, who is one of the three “Delegate Presidents” of the ongoing Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, was at a loss to describe the plight of these Filipino migrant workers and their families, expressing hope that these realities could be brought to the attention of his fellow Synod Fathers.
“[Then] you wonder what type of strength they need. Then you pray ‘Lord, give them strength’,” he said.
Tagle counts poverty—extreme poverty—among the “many challenges to families in the Philippines”.
The prelate stressed, “In one of our meetings at the Council of the Synod of Bishops, I sort of reminded them that poverty is not just an external context for many of us in the Philippines. It goes right at the heart of the family. It affects the relationship of the members of the immediate family, and even the future.”
According to him, one “dramatic effect” of poverty is migration, which causes a temporary, but often prolonged separation in the Filipino family due to economic constraints.
“De facto there is a separation of couples, of parents from their children. But not because they couldn’t stand each other. Not because there’s a breakdown in communication. Not because of conflicts. They get separated because they love each other. And the best way for some of them to show concern, and love, and support is to leave,” he explained.
“To leave the family and find employment elsewhere. It’s a separation that definitely creates a wound and leaves a wound, especially on the children. I asked, for example, countries that receive Filipino migrants what pastoral program do we have for these individuals so that they could remain faithful to their spouses and remain faithful to their families back home,” the cardinal added.
Holding back his tears, Tagle asked,”What type of emotional first aid—if you want to put it that way—would we offer to incoming migrants, most of them confused, lost, lonely?” (Raymond A. Sebastián)