10/19/2015, 00.00
VATICAN - ITALY
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Card. Montenegro: Education and welcome to solve migrant crisis

The President of Caritas Italy tells AsiaNews: "We still have walls that need to fall in Italy, they will fall when instead of serving the poor we all sit down at the same table to eat with him”. Synod "is also discussing the families forced to emigrate. It is not only a Third World problem. In my land, Sicily, people are migrating in search of better opportunities. And families, the core of society, are paying the price. "

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "We will be able to tear down the last wall when we are able to sit down at the table with the poor, looking them in the eye and recognizing them as our brother and sister”, says Card. Francesco Montenegro, president of Caritas Italy and the Archbishop of Agrigento. The bishop is taking part in the ongoing work of the Ordinary Synod on the Family at the Vatican. He adds: "What is needed to solve the crisis of migrants is an educational commitment to transform tolerance into welcome".

Regarding Pope Francis’ call to the Italian Church to make an  "extra effort" in welcoming migrants, and the front line role that Caritas has in this effort, Card. Montenegro has clear ideas: "I believe that the Caritas’ main role of Caritas is pedagogical and this should never be forgotten. Caritas needs to help the community to adopt a culture of welcome, because this culture is not always lived and is visible. And precisely because it has an educational value, it needs facts".

The fact of the matter is simple: "If I have a brother who is suffering and who is in need, then I have to put love into practice. And this love is not measured by what we do, but what it takes from me. Caritas invites the Christian communities to take that extra step of generosity and self-giving, depriving themselves of something to make room for another”.

Italy has a noble history of hospitality, but in recent times there has been too much controversy on the subject: "I think the walls on immigration have not yet all fallen. The fact that Italy is welcoming has been clearly demonstrated in many ways, but this hospitality needs to be transformed into acceptance.  I remember the words of Msgr. Bello, when he said: 'Coexistence between people is not just about serving the poor at the table, but sitting down at table with them'. Perhaps this is the step we need to take".

In practice, he points out, "to discover that the other is a brother with whom I can live. It is said that the unknown give rise to feelings of fear. But just as the unknown stranger may cause me fear I can also frighten him. I think we must travel this path, where hospitality is visible. We often speak of integration rather than tolerance: I allow you to stay here and you should thank me for not sending you away. This is not integration. Integration is when we look at him or her and find out that we travel the road ahead together ."

 Now the point is how to solve this crisis involving millions of people: "This crisis was already expected in 1950. The technical era already outlined the possibility of a mass exodus in progress. We are beginning to divide migrants among those who flee because they are persecuted for religious or political reasons and those fleeing for economic reasons. And we are starting to deny access to economic refugees ... But is hunger not already a war? ".

"We are facing a difficult situation in the world today - adds Card. Montenegro - These people have a right to live and, both under the Italian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I can not close the doors to them. If they are, must be welcomed. But I've always said immigration is not evil: it is the symptom of an injustice on which the world rests”.

"As long as we continue to colonize those countries – he explains - those who live there will come to ask account, with interest, for all that has been done. This is what is happening: if we do not settle this relationship of injustice turning it into a relationship of justice, nothing will change. The best solution would see the construction of dynamics that does not push people to migration: the countries from which the migrants are coming are being deprived of young people, what future will they have? And we, with this first world mentality what future will we have? Or we can build the future on solidarity, as Pope Francis asks, or we risk to remain spectators of a reality that cannot change without our intervention. "

The theme of the migrants obviously involves the ongoing Synod: "We talked about it, there were several speeches on the topic. It is clear that this phenomenon of migration is splitting families, but I want to emphasize that this is not a drama that only affects other lands. I see in my country as many are starting to leave, for example, for Germany or other nations: families break-up. Separated from the father, the  mother has to look after the children and the money is never enough. We cannot disregard this, because the future is linked to the family, because the world is a big family and if we fail to take care of small ones, which are the core of all society, we will have little progress to make".

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