Vatican official to world leaders: Look into migration’s human face

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Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations (Photo: Kris Bayos)

NEW YORK City, February 18, 2016—A top Vatican official reminded world leaders that migrants, regardless of their legal status, are still human beings whose rights and dignity should be respected across territorial borders.

Even before Pope Francis’ recent visit to Mexico and the hullabaloo over papal remarks about the global issue on migration, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, reiterated that the Church will not cease to plead before the international community for a more humane treatment of migrants.

Auza, who hails from Talibon, Bohol, pointed out that “migration is no longer a choice for people, and that an overwhelmingly amount of migrants are forced to flee their homes due to extreme want and grinding poverty, natural catastrophes and environmental degradation, wars and conflicts.”

Tragedies of migration

“Migration has become almost synonymous with misfortunes, violence, and loss of economic gains. The negative narrative on migration exacerbates the plight of migrants, making them face racism, xenophobia, stereotypes, even [becoming] scapegoats for terrorism and economic difficulties,” the prelate told CBCP News.

As Permanent Observer to the UN, Auza, represents the Holy See and the Holy Father in the Family of Nations that is the United Nations.

The Filipino prelate added that within the problems associated with mass migrations lie even greater tragedies.

“Take the case of human trafficking, in particular the trafficking of women and girls for sex, and other contemporary forms of slavery spawned by migration. Statistics suggest that up to 35 million people are living in conditions of slavery across the globe, facing sexual exploitation, forced labor, and the denial of their basic rights. These modern forms of slavery are the opposite of a globalization driven by the culture of encounter and the values of solidarity and justice. Pope Francis affirms that these forms of modern slavery are a crime against humanity and an open wound on the body of our contemporary society,” he explained.

Only way

Auza clarified that the Holy See, despite its stance on global migration issue, is aware of the legal implications of migration. However, he said systematic and active cooperation between states and international organizations is the only way to effectively regulate and manage migration movements.

“While fully aware of the complexities of migration, like its legal aspects, the Holy See always underlines that over and above all other considerations, it is necessary always to see the human face of migration, to see the migrant as a fellow human being, endowed with the same human dignity and rights as ourselves. It is only then that we can respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of solidarity and cooperation,” he said.

“It is in the awareness of this fundamental principle of love that big and small miracles happen every day in the high seas and in the deserts where migrants risk their lives, and in unwelcoming cities where they face other sets of tragedies,” Auza added.

Earlier, Pope Francis ended his six-day tour of Mexico with a Eucharistic celebration at the U.S.-Mexico boarder in El Pazo, Texas. The Holy Father prayed for migrants, especially those who lost their lives or endured living far from their families in an attempt to cross the border in search for a better life.


Pope Francis likened forced migration to a humanitarian crisis forcing people to cross mountains, deserts, and hostile zones, even to risk their lives.

Even before the papal visit, US presidential candidate Donald Trump assailed Pope Francis for failing to understand the dangers of keeping an open border with Mexico. Trump and other presidentiables have been blunt about their plans to deport illegal immigrants across the United States.

But the Holy Father only said in reaction, “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” (Kris Bayos / CBCP News)

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