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Safe journey: Vatican pushes for global compacts on migration, refugees

Lobbying and education go hand in hand for the Vatican, Father Baggio said, because “correct information is essential in this process,” especially to counteract a series of false claims and presumptions about migrants that feed people's fears and move them away from the Christian obligations to welcome the stranger and help those in danger.

Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, a U.S. priest who is secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission, gave one example of where accurate information is needed.

“There is fear among some governments and local populations that refugees and migrants bring infectious diseases into host countries,” he told Catholic News Service.

But “scientific epidemiological studies have demonstrated that this is not the case,” he said. “There have been recent outbreaks of measles in Europe, for example, but public health experts maintain that these outbreaks are due to the fact that many Europeans have decided that their children should not be vaccinated against measles, while most refugees and migrants are vaccinated upon arrival in the host countries.”

Asked what “Catholics in the pew” can or should do, Msgr. Vitillo said he hoped they would understand “the Gospel mandate to treat all with the same love and mercy that we ourselves receive from our heavenly Father” and, therefore, would “avoid all hateful or exclusionary treatment of refugees and migrants.”

“I hope that ‘Catholic in the pews’ will develop an acute awareness of the blessings and gifts — cultural, social, and spiritual — that refugees and migrants bring to their host communities, just as many of our own ancestors were welcomed by host communities in the distant, and not-so-distant, past,” he said.

And, finally, he said, “I hope that ‘Catholics in the pews’ will pray and act to effect peace in the world and to promote integral human development, so migration could become a choice, freely taken in orderly and regular fashion, with the promise of decent work with just pay and decent work conditions, rather than to be violently forced on people for their own survival or that of their families.”

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