Episcopal Vicars and Catholic Immigration Offices Meeting
14-15 October 2015
Directors and Episcopal Vicars for Migration from Diocesan and Archdiocesan Catholic Immigration Offices gathered in Canberra on 14-15 October for the second of its annual meetings. At the meeting were present Bishop Terry Brady (Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life) and Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen (Bishop Delegate to the ACMRO). These meetings provide an opportunity for each of the diocesan offices along with the episcopal vicars for migration to come together and discuss local and global issues of migration.
Among the topics of discussion were issues that migrants in our communities face, as well as the unique challenges faced by migrant communities and migrant chaplains around Australia. The meetings provided a great opportunity to share strategies to better assist our migrant communities and chaplains in Australia.
Also part of our meeting was the opportunity to discuss global issues, in particular the situation the Middle East and the migrant crisis in Europe, as well as how to provide assistance to the 12,000 refugees who will be coming to Australia. For our meeting, the ACMRO was able to welcome two keynote speakers to discuss these topics:
Marcelle Mogg, Director of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA), spoke at the meeting about the kinds of assistance needed to assist the 12,000 Syrian refugees who will be coming to Australia over the next several months. Discussion also centred on how to best coordinate the Church’s response both at a national and local level.
Also speaking at the meeting were Bishop Robert Rabbat (Catholic Melkite Eparchy) and Archbishop Mor Malatius Malki Malki (Syrian Orthodox Church in Australia). They provided an update on the situation facing Syrian Christians in the Middle East. They also discussed what kind of assistance the Catholic Church in Australia could provide and how to coordinate the efforts of the Catholic Church along with the Orthodox churches in Australia and the Middle East. The spoke of a new project, Eastern Churches Welfare Association (ECWA), to coordinate assistance to the 12,000 Syrian refugees who will come to Australia, but also to continue to raise awareness of the hardships and difficulties that Christians who remain in the Middle East continue to face.
Resettlement of 12,000 Refugees in Australia
The support that ACMRO, CSSA, Dioceses, parishes and other Catholic groups may be able to provide - Report from Catholic Social Services Australia
In consulting with ACMRO and Catholic social service agencies, we have identified a range of ways through which we can harness the goodwill and generosity of Catholics who wish to welcome refugees into our communities.
In the first instance, all Dioceses have been urged to liaise with their local ACMRO Chaplains and Catholic social service agency to identify the support that is likely to be required at the local level. Some requirements that communities may give consideration to include:
- Identifying housing that may be made available to accommodate people on a permanent basis. This may include private housing owned by parishioners that they are willing to make available for rent, and/or properties owned by Dioceses that could be made available on both a short and long-term basis. (Some degree of caution should be exercised in encouraging families to take refugees in to their homes – without rigorous background checks, and recognising that some people will be arriving here having recently witnessed trauma, there are likely to be risks in housing people in private homes which we may not be able to foresee).
- Identifying opportunities to provide employment and work experience
- Donations of goods that are targeted to the needs of people resettling in Australia
- Raising money to support the provision of additional support services such as specialist trauma counselling for those people who need access to such care, or the provision of rent assistance in securing appropriate housing
- Encouraging people to register as volunteers to provide English conversation, orient people to local community services, and negotiate public transport
- Convening discussion groups involving leaders of other faiths to help people to understand that Australia is a country that welcomes people of different faiths
- Forging relationships with other Catholic rites in order to better understand the cultural traditions that will be significant for people resettling in Australia
- Hosting joint religious services with community members from other Catholic rites
- Hosting parish dinners, play groups and BBQs to welcome people into the local community
These are some initial ideas and offered to you only in order to assist in facilitating conversation with the social service, education and health services working within your Diocese. Bishops have been encouraged to draw the heads of these agencies together in conversation with key parish leaders to forge a coordinated response to people who may be resettling in local communities.
For a list of of local catholic social services please click here