‘Draw near’ and welcome the stranger

ROME — A Vatican official has invited the faithful to “draw near” to migrants and refugees, lend them a listening ear, and learn about their stories.

Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, one of the undersecretaries for the Vatican’s new Migrants and Refugees Section of the Pontifical Council for Integral Human Development, underlined the importance the Vatican has placed on the plight of migrants and refugees worldwide in a video, published Feb. 6.

Jesuit Father Michael Czerny speaks of the importance of drawing near to the migrant or refugee in one's community. Click on the image to watch the video.

Jesuit Father Michael Czerny speaks of the importance of drawing near to the migrant or refugee in one’s community. Click on the image to watch the video.

The plight of migrants and refugees, as well as the challenges faced by some host countries and communities, have become international concerns, making headlines worldwide.

In an effort to contribute to understanding the issues through open and constructive dialogue, The Lay Centre has organized a six-week series, called “Welcoming the Stranger,” that will be followed by a weekend retreat, “Walking with the Stranger.”

The series starts Feb. 16, with sessions held on Thursday morning. The series includes different speakers who will address a range of topics on migrants and refugees from Christian and interreligious perspectives. (See the full program below.)

In the video, Father Czerny said the migration and refugee crisis includes more than the cases people hear about most often in the media, such as the Syrian refugee crisis.

“In fact, there are movements of people all over the world, many millions of people on the move and on the move in situations of terrible insecurity, danger and suffering,” he said.

“Many people ask us, ‘Well, what can we do to help?’ And really the most important thing I think in responding is to find out what’s going on nearby,” he said.

“Find out what is the situation of people who are seeking asylum, who are displaced, who are migrant, who are refugees, who are claiming refugee status… Who are these people in the area where I am or where we are as a parish or where we are as a diocese? So that we begin by knowing who it is we’re talking about,” he said.

“I would say the first answer to the question, ‘How can we help?’ would be to draw near,” he said. “Draw near. Say hello and listen.”

Below is the full schedule for the six-week series, “Welcoming the Stranger,” hosted by The Lay Centre.

February 16 – Welcoming the Stranger: Biblical Perspective

Edmund Power, OSB, former Abbot of St. Paul Outside the Walls (2005-2015), Donna Orsuto, Director, The Lay Centre and Professor, Pontifical Gregorian University

February 23 – The Holy (Refugee) Family: Perspectives from Christian Art

Barbara Aniello, Professor, Faculty of History and Cultural Heritage of the Church, Pontifical Gregorian University Hansol Goo, Lay Centre Leadership Scholar

March 2 – “I Am Because We Are”:  Social Responsibility and the Refugee Crisis

Amaya Valcarcel, International Advocacy Coordinator, Jesuit Refugee Service Antony Mukui Wanjiku, Advocacy Assistant, JRS, with Isaias Marcano, Lay Centre Leadership Scholar

March 9 – Meeting Virtually, Loving Virtually: the Paradoxes of a Disembodied Life

Peter Lah, SJ, Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Pontifical Gregorian University Filipe Domingues, Lay Centre Leadership Scholar

March 16 – The Road to Integration: A Common Goal that Brings Christians Together

Archbishop Sir David Moxon KNZM, The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome Claudia Giampietro, Lay Centre Leadership Scholar

March 23 – Hospitality beyond Boundaries: Christians and Muslims Responding Together to the Refugee Crisis

Thomas Michel, SJ, Professor, Georgetown University and Cenap Mustafa Aydin, Director, Istituto Tevere Peter Dziedzic, Lay Centre Leadership Scholar

March 24 – 26   LENTEN WEEKEND RETREAT:  “Walking with the Stranger”

 Led by James Corkery, SJ, with the closing Mass celebrated by Most Reverend Paul Gallagher and organized in collaboration with The Lay Centre Leadership Scholars.

Please contact us for more information: T. +39 06 772 6761    or    info@laycentre.org

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