VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the help of the Migrant and Refugee Section of the Vatican
Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, eight bishops'
conferences in Latin America have joined efforts to assist Venezuelans in
transit through or settling in their home countries.
Called "Bridges of Solidarity," the two-year
pastoral program seeks to "find common solutions to the challenges posed
by the massive flow
of Venezuelans, who have decided to move to another South American country in
recent years," the Vatican office said in a press release May 7.
After a period of study and discussion, the bishops'
conferences of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay
and Peru forged a coordinated action plan to offer needed services to
Venezuelans, other vulnerable migrants and the local communities that host
them, the office said.
The initiative was a response to Pope Francis' call to
"welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees" and
reflects many of recommendations made in the guide put out by the Migrant and Refugee Section: "Responding
to Refugees and Migrants: Twenty Action Points."
The project, which was launched in May, is expected to
assist "hundreds of thousands" of Venezuelans, Scalabrini Father
Fabio Baggio, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees
reporters May 7.
The section's other undersecretary, Jesuit Father Michael
Czerny, told reporters how valuable it is for migrants to receive even just
basic information when they arrive in a new country.
"I happen to be a refugee myself," said the priest,
who was born in the former communist Czechoslovakia and raised in Canada.
He said every refugee and migrant arrives in a new place
wondering, "What awaits you? What lies ahead? What do you need to know
now" so as to be better prepared, and not surprised or disappointed?
It's important, he said, that "as people undertake
these difficult journeys, they are supplied with good information all along the
"That is also a form of prevention of trafficking,"
he said, "because people are trafficked when they lack the necessary
information in order to make good decisions."
Some of the services, which will be run by parishes,
local Caritas organizations and other Catholic providers, include:
-- Shelters and centers for vulnerable migrants;
-- Help with job and housing searches, work and stay
permits, and social inclusion;
-- Facilitated access to education and health services;
-- Training for church workers providing assistance and