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Migration as a Tool of Evangelization

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In the context of mision and new evangelization, Dr. Sajan George Thengumpally, discusses the following points: 1. Migration as a Tool of Evangelization, 2. The Phenomenon of Migration, 3. Mission Territories, 4. Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Oriental Churches, 5. Establishing Pastoral Structures for Migrants Will Foster Mission. My Page Title


Vol. 3, No.1, June 2012

Pages: 83-100


Sajan George Thengunpally

In the context of mision and new evangelization, Dr. Sajan George Thengumpally, discusses the following points: 1. Migration as a Tool of Evangelization, 2. The Phenomenon of Migration, 3. Mission Territories, 4. Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Oriental Churches, 5. Establishing Pastoral Structures for Migrants Will Foster Mission.


Pope Benedict XVI wrote in motu proprio, Porta Fidei of 11 October 2011: “Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.” The mandate of Jesus to proclaim the Gospel is ever new and addressed to every culture, and valid in every changing social situation. The Church recognizes that the most serious challenge she faces in the contemporary society is the all permeating secularization, which holds back the joyful living of the faith and its effective communication. Day to day life of the Christian faithful and the ecclesial community in general are affected by the impacts of secularization and consumerism, and consequently, faith is overshadowed by superficiality and egocentrism. Therefore, the Church initiates new projects for the rediscovery of the joy of the faith and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. Recent actions taken by the Church - like establishing Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, announcement of “year of faith”, and choosing “the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith,” as the theme of the next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2012- intend to accelerate this process.

The Lineamenta of the 2012 General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops specifies the new social, cultural, economic, political and religious situations in which Christianity must give testimony and proclaim the Gospel. The social scenario in which the new evangelization is to take place is marked with the phenomenon of migration which compels the individuals and families to leave their home land and live in an urbanized context, which redefines the ethnical geography of cities, nations and continents. The lineamenta comments that the mission is no more a movement from West to East or North to South, because the geographical confines are collapsed. In this background, it is relevant to rethink whether mission ad gentes limited to mission territories is sufficient to meet the missionary needs of the time. Another situation of the modern times, where the so called traditionally Christian countries face lack of missionary personnel to be sent ad extra , and look forward to African, Asian and North American countries for new vocations, demands a reconsideration of the monopoly of the Western Church in evangelization and the claim of the Oriental Churches to exercise their missionary right. A prevalent thinking until the middle of the 20 th century was to attribute the monopoly of missions to the Latin Church (and in practice it still continues). This missionary dimension of the Church is not limited to any single sui iuris Church, as many western theologians and ecclesiologists thought before the Second Vatican Council. Migration of the Oriental faithful to the so called mission territories creates a confrontation between mission proper undertaken by the Latin Church and the pastoral care according to one’s own Rite demanded by the Oriental Catholic faithful. In this study we will discuss how the hierarchical structures established for the pastoral care of the Oriental Catholic faithful could be used as an effective tool for evangelization.

1. Migration as a Tool of Evangelization

The Church is by its very nature missionary and preaching the Gospel is her innate right and duty. She uses different ways and means to accomplish the task entrusted to her by her Founder. These means are varied from direct preaching of the Gospel to the day to day witnessing of the faithful. The Church never hesitated to adopt new methods of evangelization in different historical situations and different cultural contexts. “In the course of history, this mission has taken on new forms and employed new strategies according to different places, situations, and historical periods.”From the be-ginning of her institution she zealously pursues the mandate of the Lord to announce the Good News. Under the leadership of the Apostles, the early Christians spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, facing tribulations and persecutions. Thus, the first phase of the proclamation of the Gospel was, though in a most unorganized form, undertaken by the zealous missionaries of the early Church. From the 4 th century, after getting freedom in the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine, the missionary activity received political support, and relatively free proclamation became possible.In the middle of the second millennium missionaries were supported by the colonial powers in the newly discovered lands. After the Middle Ages and during the time of reformation, the Church and the state found themselves independent, and, consequently, the Church adopted a new approach to evangelization and missionary activity. Noteworthy features of the missionary outlook of the Church in this period were the recognition of certain parts of the world as mission territories, institution of Congregatio de Propaganda Fide and the recognition of the existence of Oriental Catholic Churches.

In all the phases of evangelization migration was used as a tool for the propagation of faith. In recent times the migration of the oriental Catholic faithful to proper Latin territories and to the mission territories raises many canonical questions. We shall discuss in this study the need for a new vision of evangelization in the mission territories from the background of migration and for a redefinition of the competence of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

2. The Phenomenon of Migration

Migration is a world–wide social phenomenon that often appears as an inevitable part of life in the history of mankind. It implies the mobility of a group or individual, from one region to another, mostly in search of better economic prospects. Migration is not merely a physical movement of people from one place to another, but a movement with multiple social, economic, cultural, religious and other dimensions as well. In fact nearly all countries are now faced with the eruption of the migration phenomenon in one aspect or another; it affects their social, economic, political and religious life and is becoming more and more a permanent structural phenomenon. Migration is often determined by a free decision of the migrants themselves, taken frequently not only for economic reasons but also for cultural, technical or scientific motives.

But most of the migrations take place mainly due to economic factors. Migration flows generally begin from economically backward areas to prosperous or dynamic areas. Most of the migrants move in search of better economic opportunities. The annual report of the United Nations Population Fund in 1993 says that some 100 million people migrated across the world in the year 1992 and it included 17 million people who were refugees, fleeing persecution at home, 20 million who had fled due to violence, drought or environmental destruction. The rest were ‘economic’ migrants seeking a better life. Hence migration is generally viewed as an economic phenomenon. Though non-economic factors obviously have some bearing, most studies say that migrants leave their area of origin primarily because of lack of economic opportunities in hope of finding better opportunities elsewhere. Generally, migration is a product of unequal distribution of resources on a worldwide scale.

Besides economic factors, social factors also play a crucial role in voluntary human migration. The structure of the world in which we live undergoes a speedy evolution. The world has become such a small place that frontiers are tending to collapse, space is being reshaped and the distance is annihilated. We are living in a global village. In this age of globalization there is no point in speaking of a static society. Transportation facilities, job opportunities, better living conditions and similar factors make the people move from one place to another more frequently than ever before. Besides, psychological, social and cultural factors like degree of attachment to cultural patterns in the home country, previous residence abroad, presence of relatives and friends in the country of destination and the general feeling of discontent, influence the migratory behavior of the people. Another reason for the compulsion to emigrate frequ-ently springs from the need to get away from regimes, which repress the fundamental rights of man. It may be called emigration for ideological reasons and goes hand in hand with the search for freedom. Migration of the members of the Oriental Churches in the Middle East to America and Europe is an example.

The growing phenomenon of migration is always a concern of the Church. A large number of her members are involved in the migratory movement leaving their traditional homeland and settling in a foreign land where no structural assistance of the Church is available. Church always upholds that people have the right to migrate. John Paul II says in his encyclical Laborem Exercens : “Man has the right to leave his country of origin for various motives…as also to return there…and to seek better conditions of life in another country.” Church is aware of the various problems faced by the migrants, especially the problems in the social, political and religious life that adversely affect them. The Church addresses the social injustices, discriminations and human rights violations imposed on the migrants so strongly.

In spite of the hardships and negative impacts on the religious life involved in migratory movements, it has many positive aspects as well. From a view point of evangelization, migration makes possible the spread of the gospel even in those regions where missionaries cannot enter. The Christians who migrate to a new land take with them their Christian faith and share it directly or indirectly with the non-Christians of the host society. Gradually a Christian community emerges in such places and later proper ecclesial structures are developed. “ In the Christian community born of Pentecost, migr-ation is an integral part of the Church’s life, clearly expresses its universality, promotes communion within it, and influences its growth. Migration thus offers the  Church  an historic opportunity to prove its four characteristic marks: the Church is one  because in a certain sense it also expresses the unity of the whole human family; it is  holy  also to make all people holy and that God’s name may be sanctified in them; it is  catholic  furthermore in its openness to diversity that is to be harmonised; and it is likewise  apostolic  because it is also committed to evangelise the whole human person and all people.”

From the time of early Church onwards migratory movements of Christians paved the way for planting the Church in new lands. The Christians of Jerusalem, spread to many parts of the world in the first century, were in fact the first missionaries. The Acts of the Apostles accounts: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephan traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the Word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch spoke to Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus” (Acts. 11, 19-20). The migration under the leadership of Thomas of Cana from Persia to India in the third century, the migrations of Christians in the sixth and seventh centuries from Middle East due to the Muslim invasions, the migrations of Europeans to newly found American continent, etc were some of the migratory movements in which mostly Christians were involved. The migrations from Middle East were due chiefly to religious persecutions, but for the rest other reasons played the main role. The large-scale migrations in the 19 th and 20 th centuries attracted the attention of the Church to respond to it with sympathy. Most of these movements had their destination as North and South Americas and Africa. After the Second World War the main destinations became Europe, United States, Canada and Australia.

Migration of non-Christians to Christian countries and the migration of Christians to non-Christian counties create a new situation of intermingling and meeting of different cultures. It can adversely affect the religious practices of Christians and at the same time, gives occasion to transmit the message of the Gospel. The social, cultural and religious problems created by large number of non-Christians to countries where Christians are the majority, is not the topic of our discussion. We are concerned with the missionary possibilities opened up by the migration of Christians to those so called mission territories where non-Christians constitute the major part of the population.

3. Mission Territories

“Mission territories” is a term used repeatedly in corpus iuris canonici ; for example in CCEO c. 593 § 1, CIC c. 790, PB 89, 90 §1 and elsewhere in CCEO, CIC and PB. However, this term is not adequately defined in the codes of canon law. A formal canonical definition is given in CCEO c. 594: “Mission territories are those recognized as such by the Apostolic See.” “In the Latin tradition and canon law it refers generally to areas where missionary activity has not yet begun or still in progress; canonically, no ecclesial circumscription has yet been erected, that is, the faithful are not yet united under a hierarchy.” These territories are dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (former Congregation de propaganda fide ), and where dioceses or at least quasi-hierarchical structures like sui iuris mission, apostolic prefecture, apostolic vicariate, etc have not been established. However, most of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples are dioceses in Asia and Africa and are called missionary dioceses only because they are still in mission territories. Hence, “juridically, territories under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples are said to be mission territories.”

The territories under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, once a vast expanse, have decreased with the progress of evangelization. Annuario Pontificio 2011 indicates the mission territories depending on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples as follows: some parts of America, nearly the whole of Africa, Far East and Oceania except Australia and nearly the whole of the Philippines.The Apostolic See has re-cognized certain territories as mission territory and placed them under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to which “are subject mission territories” (PB 89). At present the mission territories under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples are the following nations: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antilles, Arabia (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates) Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Colombia, Comoro, Congo, Korea, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Philippines, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Japan, Gibuti, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equator, India, Indonesia, Pacific Islands, Falcon Island, Solomon Island, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, La Reunion, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Saint Helen, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Canada (St. Pierre et Miquelon), South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Many of the previous territories under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples are no more mission territories, as Churches in those places have reached ecclesial maturity. They are progressively transferred from the jurisdiction of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to the regime of “common law.” United States was considered to be a mission territory until 1908 and Australia until 1976.

In addition to the above mentioned territories certain other nations are specified by the Holy See as territories under the Congregation for the Oriental Churches where the missionary activities depend exclusively on that Congregation. “Apostolic and missionary action in regions where oriental rites prevail from ancient times, depend exclusively on this Congregation, even if done by missionaries of the Latin Church” (PB 60). According to this norm this Congregation has exclusive authority over Orientals and Latins in the “Oriental religions.” These regions are: Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Grease, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey.

In the mission territories the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and in the oriental territories the Congregation for the Oriental Churches exercise ad normam iuris over eparchies, bishops, priests, monks and religious and laity, the same faculties the Congregation for bishops, for clerics, for institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, and for the Catholic Education. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is given many other special faculties according to the situations of different territories. For example everything pertains to China is dealt with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples without the intervention of other dicasteries.

4. Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Oriental Churches

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has had an important role in the propagation of faith and coordination of mission activity from the 16 th century. However, the Second Vatican Council has recognized also the missionary right of the Oriental Churches, which does not come directly under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. “ For all missions and for the whole of missionary activity there should be only one competent office, namely that of the "Propagation of the Faith," which should direct and coordinate, throughout the world, both missionary work itself and missionary cooperation. However, the law of the Oriental Churches is to remain untouched” ( ad Gentes 29). PB confirmed this in art. 85: “It pertains to the congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to direct and coordinate throughout the world the actual work of spreading the Gospel as well as missionary cooperation, without prejudice to the competence of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.”

The Congregation for the Evangelization, previously known as Congregatio de Propaganda Fidei, was established to coordinate the missionary activity of the Church through out the world. In 13 th century, Raymond Lull, a Franciscan tertiary petitioned to Pope Celestine V to establish a congregation for the propagation of faith. In 1568 Pope Pius V established two temporary commissions for the propagation of faith. In 1573 Gregory XIII instituted a congregation of three cardinals for the coordination of the mission activities. During Clement VIII it was proposed that the purpose of the commission of cardinals should be extended as a congregation of cardinals for the propagation of faith, an organization to procure financial support for the missions, a publishing house to print Christian literature to be distributed among non-Christians, a seminary for the training of missionaries. From the beginning of its institution this Congregation had full authority to take all the decisions necessary to accomplish the missionary activity all over the world.

Gregory XV formerly erected the Congregation de propaganda fide by the bull Inscrutabili Divinæ Providentiæ Arcano on 6 January 1622. Until the erection of Propaganda Fide , the administration of missions was largely controlled by Spanish and Portuguese Crowns under the terms of the right of patronage ( Padruado ). The transfer of authority over the missions from state to the Church was an important milestone in the history of missionary activities. The royal patronage created many unwanted practices in the mission countries. The hierarchical system controlled by Padruado paved way for many abuses and resulted in an ill-suited hierarchical organization. The frequent interference of colonial officials in the administration of missions, and the close identification between colonial regimes and missionaries in the eyes of the indigenous people hindered the missionaries from winning the hearts of the local people.

Territorial jurisdiction of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide has changed from time to time according to the historical situations. From its very beginning Propaganda Fide was entrusted with those regions of Europe where Protestantism prevailed. As a result, Britain, Holland, Luxembourg, southern Canada, and United States of America were mission territories under the Congregation de Propaganda Fide until 1908 when Pope Pius X reorganized it. Propaganda vicariate was established in India in 1637, where already the jurisdiction of the Portuguese padruado was operative, and with no consideration for the jurisdiction of the St. Thomas Christians, an Oriental Church which enjoyed all India jurisdiction.

One of the negative aspects of the early activities of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide in the Orient was the misconception regarding the faith, liturgy and discipline of the Oriental Churches. The idea of praestantia ritus latini dominated the mind of many of the Latin missionaries. Consequently, one of the responsibilities of the missionaries, as they regarded, was to engage in the mission to correct the “schismatic” elements of the Oriental Churches. The result was zealous attempts from the part of the western missionaries to Latinize the Oriental Churches. The attempts to transfer the juridical-administrative systems of the Oriental Churches to the Roman Centralized system resulted in the negation of the autonomy of the Oriental Churches and imposition of the monopoly of the Latin Church.

However, gradually the identity of the Oriental Churches with distinct theology, spirituality, discipline and liturgy was recognized. On 6 January 1862 Pope Pius IX erected a section in the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide for the Oriental rites. On 1 May 1917 Pope Benedict XV established Congregatio pro Ecclesia Orientali by motu proprio Dei Providentis. On 25 March 1938 through motu proprio Sancta Dei Ecclesia Pope Pius XI assigned certain territories to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches with the competence to exercise exclusive authority, even over the Latin faithful in those regions. Considering the plurality of the Oriental Churches, Pope Paul VI by the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae changed the name of the congregation as pro ecclesiae Orientalibus . At present, as clarified by Pastor Bonus, the competence of this Congregation is extended to all matters which are proper to the Oriental Churches and which are to be referred to the Apostolic See (PB, 58). PB assigns exclusive competence to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches over persons and territories belonging to the Oriental Churches. Questions of status, rights, and obligations of eparchies, bishops, priests, religious and laity of the Oriental Churches are directly handled by this Congregation without the intervention of the Congregation for the Bishops, Congregation for Clerics, Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, etc. However, “this does not infringe on the proper and exclusive competence of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for the Causes of Saints, of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura or the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, as well as of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for what pertains to dispensation from a marriage  ratum et non consummatum ” (PB 58 § 2).

The competence of the Congregation is limited to certain territories: 1) in the “Oriental territories, 2) in the proper territories of the Oriental Churches, and 3) in those places outside the proper territories of individual Oriental Churches where eparchies or other hierarchical structures are established. According to PB 59 “the Congregation pays careful attention to communities of Oriental Christian faithful living within the territories of the Latin Church, and attends to their spiritual needs by providing visitators and even a hierarchy of their own, so far as possible and where numbers and circumstances demand it, in consultation with the Congregation competent for the establishment of particular Churches in that region.” Hierarchical structures for the pastoral care of the Oriental faithful living in the mission territories should be established in consultation with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and in other territories of the Latin Church Congregation for Bishops is to be consulted.

5. Establishing Pastoral Structures for Migrants will foster Mission

Pastoral care of Oriental migrants in the mission territories coming under the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, and in Europe, United States and Australia which come under the competence of the Congregation for Bishops is a long discussed question. Establishing hierarchical structures for those migrant people will foster both mission ad gentes and new evangelization.

The Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI, Evangelium Nuntiandi speaks of three essential elements of evangelization: witness of Christian life, explicit proclamation of the Gospel and celebration of sacraments. The witness of life was always an effective tool of evangelization used by the Church at every stage of her existence (EV 76). The Second Vatican decree Ad Gentes also points out that witness of life is a means of evangelization. Evangelium Nuntiandi views verbal preaching as an important part of evangelization that it has become a synonym for evangelization (EN 22). Evangelization cannot be fully achieved by sermons or communication of the doctrine alone (EV 47). It needs further grace which comes from the sacraments (EN 23). Promoting the sacramental life of the local Christian community is an essential and indispensable pre-requisite of effective evangelization, because only a sacramentally strengthened Christian community can witness and proclaim the word of God. “Witness of life leads one to explicit proclamation which attains its fullness in the celebration of the sacraments. Then, again, being nourished and strengthened by the sacraments the Christians go on bearing witness and proclaiming the good news.” The non-Christian areas where Christians are newly migrated in large scale must witness a corresponding propagation of faith. If such a corresponding evangelization is not resulted, the reason may be found in the lack of pastoral coordination and adequate ecclesiastical structures for the migrants, and consequent absence of sacramental endorsement. More ecclesial structures, presence of more priests and religious and more ecclesiastical institutions will only support the missionary activities. These pastoral structures will provide more possibilities for dialogue and interaction with non-Christians, which is the most suitable way of evangelization in many countries in the present situation.

The Church’s new focus on new evangelization, which is a revitalization of the Christian community, calls for reinforced pastoral care given to the faithful. Lack of pastoral structures will cause the loss of the rich ecclesial life of the migrants which they had been cherishing in their home land. Due to lack of proper pastoral care and religious instruction, it is possible that many of the migrants go astray, going away from the faith life and moral principles. Studies among the Syro-Malabar migrants in Indian cities prove that civil marriages, cohabitation without any marriage contract, mixed marriages, etc. are on the increase among the migrants. Family ties, which were so strong among the Syro-Malabar Christians, began to weaken among the migrant community. The main reason for this seems to be the lack of prayer and lack of adequate support from the Church. The Syro-Malabar families were the great reservoirs of vocations in the Indian Church. But from among the migrant communities priestly and religious vacations are almost zero. This is true everywhere in the world. The migrant families of the Oriental Churches in Europe and America face more acute problems in the deeply secularized western society. Therefore, the new evangelization programme must address the pastoral care of the Oriental Catholic migrants in the western countries and big cities of the East which are drowning in the flood of secularization.

Migration opens up a new way of evangelization which is to be supported and guided properly. The pastoral care given to different migrant groups, especially to the Oriental Catholics must be intended also for evangelization. An open mind and cooperation on the part of all the sui iuris Churches are needed in this regard. “Migration today furthermore imposes new commitments of evangelisation and solidarity on Christians.” Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Syro-Malabar bishops during the ad limina Apostolorum visit in 2011 said: “The rapid and dramatic changes which are a part of contemporary society throughout the world bring with them not only serious challenges, but new possibilities to proclaim the liberating truth of the Gospel message to transform and elevate human relationships.” Migration proposes a new possibility of the proclamation of the Gospel which is suited to the conditions of the modern world.

Vol. 3.  No. 1,  June 2012.  P.p. 83-98


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