Driven by the Depth of Love
Stories of Migrants
Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, MSW, ACSW
International Catholic Migration Commission
Shortly after his election as the Successor of Peter, Pope Francis undertook his first trip outside the city of Rome. He chose to visit Lampedusa, the island off Sicily, where so many migrants lost their lives during their pilgrimage to seek protection from war, conflict, abject poverty, and discrimination in their home countries. On that occasion, he lamented, "These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity. And their cry rises up to God!"1 Each year, on 8 July, the Pope celebrates a Mass to commemorate that historic visit and to pray, both for those who survive these treacherous journeys and for those who have been buried in the Mediterranean and other seas, in deserts, on mountains, and elsewhere. He also takes the time to listen to the survivors. On 8 July 2019, he said, "On this sixth anniversary of the visit to Lampedusa, my thoughts go out to those 'least ones' who daily cry out to the Lord, asking to be freed from the evils that afflict them ... They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!"2
When we, at the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), took responsibility, in partnership with many other sister Catholic-inspired organizations, to coordinate an effort of primary and secondary research and to identify good practices in response to contemporary labor migration,3 we were determined to prevent a solitary focus on "social or migrant issues." Thus, we decided to launch, as well, an effort to listen directly to "the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties"4 of migrants themselves, who must be recognized as our teachers in any study or discussion of the challenges and opportunities they have faced during their journeys through countries of origin, transit, and destination.
I would like to thank Mr. Christian Tasso, a photojournalist with keen sensitivity to the dignity and dreams of migrants, always putting these persons at the center of his professional work. I am grateful, as well, to those colleagues in India, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, and the United States of America who hosted Mr. Tasso and encouraged the migrants, whom they serve, to share the stories of their life journeys with him.
I believe Mr. Tasso's reflection on the privilege of encountering the migrants adequately sums up both the aim and the outcome of our reflections in this book, which are well reflected in its title Driven by the Depth of Love:
... if we were to ask migrants why they find themselves thousands of kilometers from their homelands and how they see themselves, the image that they would give us would be very different from what we imagine. [...] They would help us to understand the depth of the love that motivates them to face the sea without knowing how to swim, the desert without the certainty of water. They would tell us that they faced guns and violence, that they hid from armed gangs and the police for weeks, that they confronted dangers and experiences that will mark them forever - in order to find a job that would enable them to make a living. And all this for love of their families, of their children, and for their hopes for their children's future.
- Pope Francis, Homily during visit to Lampedusa, 8 July 2013, www.ICMC.net/TaBWnote1↩
- Pope Francis, Homily on 6th anniversary of visit to Lampedusa, Vatican City, 8 July 2019, www.ICMC.net/TaBWnote2↩
- Vitillo, Robert J. & Alasino, Ignacio (editors),Towards a Better World, Migrants and Refugees in the World of Work /report/introduction, ICMC, Geneva, 2020.↩
- Pastoral Constitution on "The Church in the Modern World," promulgated by Pope Paul VI, 7 December 1965, www.ICMC.net/TaBWnote4↩