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Christianity at its core rejects discrimination and inequality. As recent Popes have repeatedly emphasized, we should look at those with whom we differ with tolerance and respect. For Catholics, a global outlook should be inescapable. Being in communion with the Catholic church brings us into a community which is truly world-wide. We experience that at weekly Mass in many parishes in larger cities. The Mass offers us a pathway out of our isolation and our selfishness. We are opened not only to a new life in the face of mystery but also to a new understanding of our own experience and our situation as social beings.
The movement of people across regions and continents began in the dawn of our history. So much of what we cherish as identity and want to defend is actually rooted in earlier dramas of migration. Today, the dangers seem more pressing. Economic imbalances, inequities between different societies, and the way in which modern communications magnify them, all trouble us. Quite apart from the scandal of people smuggling and the abuse of migrants, local pressures on host populations and their scarce resources at one end of the process and the impoverishment of communities that lose their more able members to opportunities abroad, at the other, raise the spectre of stark injustice.
The paradox of local and global loyalties, our obligations to both stranger and friend, stress- test the integrity of our good will. The encounter of different faiths and cultures can strain tolerance. But, disaggregated into its component elements, a problem like migration resolves itself into choices which are fundamentally moral in character, and not simply the preserve of specialists, economists, or sociologists, much though we can learn from their research and guidance. We are not helpless, even if the direction of high national policy is not in our hands. The problem may have little impact on our own daily lives but the attitudes we show may well impinge on individual migrants and on the communities to which we belong, with decisions to make about migration.
A Eucharistic Congress is a moment of affirmation of the values in which we are grounded and to which we aspire. The inexhaustible resources of the church can lend us the courage not to be dismayed by the scale of our global discontent. The Mass transforms our attitudes to our own contexts and gives us the means to exercise the generosity and sacrifice of leadership in our individual lives. A congress of Mass-goers is a major statement of faith and of fidelity.
I end with some words of Pope John Paul II, appositely invoking the rich concept of koinonia: ‘Beyond human and natural bonds, already so close and so strong, there is discerned in the light of faith a new model of the unity of the human race, which must ultimately inspire our solidarity. This supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God, one God in three Persons, is what we Christians mean by the word communion’.
Peter D. Sutherland is Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Migration and Development. He has also been Irish Attorney-General, a member of the European Commission, and Director-General of GATT and the World Trade Organisation.