Sydney (Agenzia Fides) – To develop guidelines on the pastoral theme of reception and solidarity towards migrants and asylum seekers: is the mission of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office within the Bishops' Conference Austalia. As reported in a note sent to Fides, don Maurizio Pettena, National Director of the Office, "welcoming a foreigner remains a permanent feature of the Church of God. Welcoming a foreigner is inherent in the nature of the Church itself and bears witness to its fidelity to the Gospel".
"The Catholic Church in Australia has long been at the forefront for the pastoral care of migrants and refugees", recalls the Director. Already in 1944 the Australian Episcopal Conference created a subcommittee on immigration and, in later years, Catholic offices for the pastoral care of migration were opened in all the dioceses.
The Office for Refugees within the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference was launched on 1 July 1995 "to give advice and serve the Episcopal Conference with regard to migrants and refugees", acting as a channel of communication with the diocesan offices and elaborating pastoral guidelines.
As Don Pettena remarked, "today education and awareness within the Church at all levels are essential". In the recent document "Welcoming Christ in the refugees and the displaced", he points out that in "foreigners" the Church sees "Christ who puts his tent among us, and knocks at our door". In the migrant, the Church "hears the voice of Christ who says: I was a stranger and you welcomed me". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 01/07/2015)