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The Vatican

See migrants as a resource, Pope urges

The Vatican

VATICAN CITY (UCAN)—Migrants are a "resource" and not a "problem," Pope Benedict XVI told the Sixth World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees.

"Migrations invite us to focus on the unity of the human family, the value of acceptance, hospitality and love for others", which must find expression in daily gestures of sharing, he said.

Today's worldwide phenomenon of migration should be seen "as a situation favorable to understanding between peoples, and to the building of peace and a form of development that involves every nation."

Pope Benedict was greeting 300 participants from five continents, including 28 from 12 Asian countries, in a special audience in the Vatican's Clementine Hall on Nov. 9, the start of the congress.

During the meeting, which will end on Nov. 12, congress delegates will discuss how best to respond pastorally to migrants and refugees in the face of globalization.

"Many migrants abandon their own countries to flee from humanly unacceptable living conditions, yet without finding elsewhere the welcome they were hoping for," the Pope said. "The economic divide between poor countries and industrialized countries is growing ever wider" in today's globalized world, he added.

The global economic crisis has also worsened their plight, reducing even the most precarious work opportunities and sending unemployment skyrocketing. "How can we not stop and reflect on the consequences of a society founded exclusively on material development?" Pope Benedict asked.

More than 200 million people worldwide live in a country other than the land of their birth, while 33 million people are refugees, asylum seekers, exiles, or internally displaced, said congress host Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio.

The president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People noted that at least 15 percent of all migrants "are estimated to be involved in illegal immigration which unfortunately is often fed by a 'parallel market' of human trafficking and smuggling."

"The protection and promotion of human rights" of migrants and refugees is an urgent task given "the persistence of exploitation, discrimination and abuse," he said.

Congress participants will hear proposals on how to address migrant and refugee issues in 14 speeches and an open debate over the coming days.

Participants are expected to agree on a concluding document, including fundamental recommendations, before the meeting ends.