By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: Father Jaison Joseph Vadassery from India has been elected as an Asian member of the governing council of an international Catholic organization that serves and protects uprooted people.
Father Vadassery, secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India Office for Labor, was elected during the plenary council of the International Catholic Migration Commission, a registered non-profit organization that addresses refugee and migration issues.
The council also elected Anne Therese Gallagher, an Australian, as its president and appointed a 14-member Governing Committee. It also ratified its secretary general Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo.
The council’s 53 voting members, representing national episcopal conferences, met in Rome on March 7.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, CBCI Secretary General, welcoming Father Vadassery’s election and wished “all the best in his new responsibilities even while he continues as the secretary for the CBCI Office for Labour. The CBCI is proud of our Fr. Jaison.”
The plenary got a boost when on March 8, Pope Francis met the participants and thanked them for their efforts to assist migrants and refugees in the name of the Church.
The multiple projects initiated on five continents, he said represented “exemplary instances of the four verbs – welcome, defend, promote and integrate.”
The Pope underlined that “today as in the past, liberating the poor, the oppressed and the persecuted is an integral part of the mission entrusted by God to the Church.”
The pontiff noted that much had changed since the commission was established in 1951. Needs have grown ever more complex, he said, “tools for responding ever more sophisticated, and your service increasingly professional.”
The United Nations estimates the world now has more than 65 million forcibly displaced people, including over 22 million forced out of their countries of origin.
The Pope expressed the hope that their work would “continue to inspire local Churches to do all they can for persons forced to leave their home countries and who, all too often, become victims of dishonesty, violence and abuse of every sort.”
In order to set free those who today are oppressed, rejected and enslaved, the Pope stressed that it was “essential to promote open and sincere dialogue with government leaders, a dialogue, he added, that takes into account people’s actual experiences, sufferings and aspirations, in order to remind everyone once more of his or her responsibilities.”
The work is not over, Pope Francis concluded, “together, he said, we must encourage countries to coordinate more suitable and effective responses to the challenges posed by issues of migration; and we can do this on the basis of the essential principles of the Church’s social teaching.”
The commission was founded in the wake of the massive displacement caused by the Second World War.
Initiated by the joint efforts of Pope Pius XII, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (then Vatican Secretary for Relations with States and later Pope Paul VI), and American layman James J. Norris, the commission was created to coordinate the work of Catholic organizations in responding to the needs of migrants, refugees and displaced persons, as well as to advocate in the intergovernmental and governmental institutions on their behalf.
The Vatican granted the commission official public juridical status in 2008. It works in close collaboration with the Secretary of State of the Vatican and with the Migrants and Refugees Section of the newly-established Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the commission now coordinates a network of structures mandated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences worldwide and has staff and programs in more than 50 countries.
The commission’s new president is a lawyer and scholar with more than 25 years of experience.
The members of the newly appointed Governing Council are:
• Africa — Archbishop Simon Ntamwana (Burundi) and Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula (Mozambique)
• Asia — Father Vadassery and Bishop Ruperto Cruz Santos of the Philippines
• Europe –Archbishop Stephan Hesse (Germany) and Marie-Christine Ries (Luxembourg)
• Latin America — Bishop Guillermo Ortiz Mondragon (Mexico) and Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez (Colombia)
• North America — Thomas Christopher Cardinal Collins (Canada) and William Canny (U.S.A)
• Middle East — Fr. Habib Kalakech (Lebanon); North Africa -Bishop Giorgio Bertin (Djibouti/Somalia)
• Oceania -Sr. Maryanne Loughry (Australia)