Great Jubilee News

VATICAN ( - The Jubilee for Migrants culminated on June 2 with a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II, and with the release of a Vatican statement on the rights of refugees. 

Some 50,000 migrants and itinerants gathered in Rome for the Jubilee observance on June 1-2.
Among them were students, sailors, migrant workers, and even members of traveling circus groups. But the focus of the Jubilee also included the estimated 22 million people around the world who are homeless, displaced, or refugees. Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao, the president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants, pointed out that the world's homeless population is "far too numerous to participate in this celebration." 

The Jubilee Charter for the Rights of Refugees was presented to Pope John Paul II along with the
Offertory gifts at the Mass in St. Peter's Square. The Vatican pointed out that the charter listed
many of the political rights accorded to refugees by international treaties, including some that are
routinely ignored and may be difficult to enforce. The document was prepared with the help of
groups involved in the care of displaced peoples, including the UN High Commission on Refugees. 

In his homily at the Mass on Friday, the Holy Father denounced "discrimination" and
"closed-minded attitudes" in contemporary society towards "the foreigner." He addressed the
eccentric and colorful crowd: "Among you, there are migrants of various countries and continents;
refugees who fled violent situations and who ask that their basic rights be recognized; foreign
students seeking to further their scientific and technological formation; sailors and aviators who
work in the service of those who travel; tourists whose interest is to know new landscapes and
customs and different costumes; nomads who, for centuries, have traversed the roads of the
world; circus people who bring attractions and healthy entertainments to public places."

He continued: "For the Catholic Church, no one is foreign, no one is excluded, no one is held at a
distance. Unfortunately, there stills exists in the world, closed-minded attitudes and rejection, which
are due to unjustified fears and self-interest." The Pope then preached "fraternity" and "the art of
celebrating differences."

"In a society such as ours -- complex and marked by many tensions -- the culture of welcome
requires careful and clear-sighted laws and standards, which make it possible to emphasize the
positive direction of human mobility." For the Pope, the Church is advancing a precise proposal:
"That all would work so that our world -- which is often regarded as a 'global village' -- would
become more unified, more interdependent, more accessible."

Various symbols were used to mark the celebration of the Jubilee for Migrants and Itinerants.
Before the Mass, 80 Italian children released multi-colored balloons as a prayer was read "to
overcome all divisions between cultures, ethnicities, and religions."

From Filipino Tagalog to Sri Lankan, from the language of the Gypsies to African swahili, there
was a multitude of languages used throughout the liturgy, in the prayers of intentions and in the
various songs. The guitars and tambourines of Gypsies as well as the pan pipes of Latin America
all had their place.

The celebration also included sailors who left the Israeli port of Haifa on May 12 for a maritime
pilgrimage from Jerusalem to Rome, in the footsteps of St. Peter. They also brought a gift for the
Holy Father: a wooden boat, in memory of the boat used by St. Peter.