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Pope Francis hears the plight of refugees, launches global campaign

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Pope Francis greets Michael Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, and immigrants during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on September 27, 2017. PHOTO: CNS

Pope Francis has launched a global campaign to promote the rights of refugees and migrants.

The Pontiff launched Caritas Internationalis’ “Share the Journey” campaign on September, inviting all Catholics to extend a hand of welcome to a migrant or refugee, and to listen to refugees’ stories.

The Vatican is reaching out to governments as they struggle to work out international policies and principles for dealing with the large number of people fleeing violence and poverty.

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The involvement of the Church and Church agencies in the UN process for drafting the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees goes hand in hand with the much more personalised effort to encourage individual Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to that person’s story.

A severely malnourished child is seen as Rohingya refugees wait to receive aid on September 25 at a camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. PHOTO: CNS

The pope himself oversees the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and he has approved specific “action points” or concrete proposals the Vatican wants to see incorporated into the global compacts.

The 20 points, drafted in consultation with several bishops’ conferences and Catholic organisations working with refugees and migrants, are explained in separate notes. One, addressed to bishops and other pastoral leaders, aims to educate Catholics and build public support for policies to guarantee an appropriate welcome, protection, promotion and integration of migrants and refugees. The other is addressed more specifically to politicians and those involved in drafting the compacts.

In his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, a text released in August, Pope Francis mentioned several of the action points, including pleas to expand the pathways and processes for legal migration; to end the practice of putting unaccompanied minors in jail-like detention centers; and to halt “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees.”

Caritas Australia CEO, Mr Paul O’Callaghan said the pope was obviously passionate about concrete acts.

“He is urging all nations to improve their role in the protection of the world’s 22 million current refugees and to simplify their visa application processes,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Rohingya refugees wait to receive aid on September 27 at a camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. PHOTO: CNS

“He wants to see families re-unified wherever possible and to show a spirit of generosity and compassion to those who have lost so much.”

“Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all,” said Pope Francis on Migrant Day, 2016.

The Pope’s call for change comes as the global Caritas network responds to 400,000 refugees who have fled violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar and crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, CSC, Archbishop of Dhaka said: “Bangladesh has not only opened the borders, but we have also opened our hearts with love and compassion to the children, women, old, the sick, the wounded and even the thousands who are unborn.”

Thirty-eight-year-old Dilda Begum, who fled Myanmar for Bangladesh said she didn’t bring a thing.

Mohamed Alamgir, 27, lies with his sick one year-old daughter Sumaya a day after arriving in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. PHOTO: Tommy Trenchard

“I just grabbed the children and ran,” she said.

“We had to pay 10,000 taka (approx AU$156) for the boat to cross into Bangladesh.”

Her two sons lie on the floor of their tent in Kutupalong refugee camp, gripped with fever, after the long journey.

The global Caritas confederation recently launched an Emergency Appeal to meet the needs of the newly-arrived Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

More information is available at and on social media via #Sharethejourney

– with CNS

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