Cardinal Luis Tagle said he had “migrant DNA” as he called on people to turn to Catholic social teaching to find a solution to the ‘refugee crisis’.
Cardinal Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, was speaking after giving catechesis at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.
Talking about the refugee situation, Cardinal Tagle said he himself had “migrant DNA”, referring to his maternal grandparent coming from China.
He called for action from Christians, and a caring attitude to refugees.
The cardinal said the Church’s pro-life stance isn’t just for the unborn but for all the vulnerable – and is key to determining how we treat migrants.
He shared an experience where he met a young teenager who was travelling from Syria alone.
“I asked him why he was alone, he said: ‘My family said go!’
“Parents are willing to save their children by sending them away. For me that situation is pro-life.
“Even when it means they don’t know if they will be reunited.”
With tears in his eyes he said he didn’t know what happened to the boy or if he ever found his family, but added: “They sacrificed their own safety for him.”
The cardinal said we need to remember that “peace is rooted in faith, justice and love” and that through faith and Catholic social teaching we can find solutions.
“People say the social teaching of the Church is its best kept secret – we need to change this,” he said.
Cardinal Tagle frequently visits migrant camps in his role as president of Caritas. He said he felt some get more attention than others.
The cardinal said he was pleased that the refugee crisis is getting covered in the media in Europe, but added “I’m sad to see an equally disastrous situation in Asia that is not getting the attention it deserves.”
He said many migrants, mostly Christians, were left homeless or fleeing from persecution.
“There are refugee camps that no country claims as their own,” he said. “That is where the Church enters.”
Cardinal Tagle spoke of a visit he made to a camp in Lebanon, where the population was all Muslim.
“As I arrived an elderly man welcomed me. I thought he was singing and dancing because he was so animated.
“But he just wanted to let me know that the Church and CARITAS are the only ones that think of [the refugees].
“That’s how he sees the Church. Not theories. It’s about human beings. He told me, ‘No one thinks of us’.”
Cardinal Tagle added that the Church’s work in such places is the only kindess some of the migrants experience.
“That’s the image of the Church, ‘Those that think of us.'”
Speaking about his role as president of CARITAS, Cardinal Tagle said he was “learning from the poor, from the migrants.”
“They teach me what the faith is about, about love and hope,” he added.
Before travelling to Poland, Pope Francis met with refugees. In his homilies, the Holy Father has called for action and for mercy towards migrants.