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Rome Reports

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The religious response to face major migratory crises

Decades ago there were few NGOs. Aid to migrants were dependent on people of goodwill like Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini.

At the end of the 19th century, this Italian made headway to involve governments in the reception and integration of migrants. Back then, waves of Europeans were leaving their land to seek their fortune all over America.

Superior General, Scalabrinians
“He involved the Italian government, he went to visit migrants in Brazil, motivated the local Church as well as the local government to receive migrants. When he went to the United States he visited migrants in New York, their parishes and the bishops. He went to Washington to see President Roosevelt and demand the country implement protection laws and programs.

Giovanni Battista Scalabrini founded up to three institutions to help migrants, including the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, known as the "Scalabrinians". There are currently around 600 priests present in more than 30 countries. The Scalabrinans can be found on the main routes used by migrants and refugees, promoting initiatives to help integrate them. The Superior General, Fr. Leonir Chiarello is a descendant of Italian migrants in Brazil.

Superior General, Scalabrinians
"Our founder saw that migration is a structural and not a circumstantial phenomenon: many at that time said:" Italian migration will pass, it is a very quick phenomenon. "We know that migration is a structural phenomenon, but there are very rapid changes in some migratory flows, such as what is happening in Venezuela. Political change is also sufficient to provoke a massive movement of migrants. So we must pay attention to what happens."

Today, being aware of what is happening in the world means preparing for the collateral damage of the pandemic. The UN estimates that "some 25 countries" will face "devastating levels of hunger in the coming months" due to the coronavirus. The situation of migrants and refugees who already live in a precarious way is also expected to worsen.

So in parishes like this one in Rome they distribute food and clothing to Latin American migrants in need.

For this reason, Fr. Leonir Chiarello explains why the mission of the Scalabrinians continues, and will remain the same as it was more than 100 years ago when they were founded by a bishop ahead of his time.

Javier Romero

Translation: KM