In his meeting with bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina Monday, Pope Francis dived straight into the problem of immigration. Though a staunch defender of a human right to migration, Francis addressed the immense damage done to nations when their best and brightest leave home for greener pastures, a reality that has struck Bosnia and Herzegovina with a special vengeance.
Francis suggested that the bishops could be instrumental in convincing citizens to stay home.
Although he called immigration “one of the social realities that we hold dear,” he said that it can also signal problems, since often the motive for migrating is troublesome and coming home is challenging. According to the 1991 census, Bosnia and Herzegovina had 4,377,053 inhabitants, whereas today the inhabitants in the country has dropped to an estimated 3,843,126.
For many, said Francis, returning to their home country is difficult, along with the lack employment opportunities, family instability, the “emotional and social laceration” of entire communities, and living memories of painful conflict.
This is not the first time that the Pope has highlighted the underlying problems often inherent in migration. In his 2014 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said that “migrations often reveal failures and shortcomings on the part of States and the international community,” and called to mind “situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement.”
On that occasion, Francis listed what he saw to be “the elements which mark migratory movements,” those social conditions that impel people to leave their country of origin. Among these, he said, are “violence, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization and restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms.”
The problem of emigration, Francis said Monday, creates “bitterness and concern” for the bishops,” signaling a failure of the homeland to provide for its children.
The Pope urged them to spare no effort in supporting the weak, as well as helping “those who have a legitimate and honest desire to remain in their homeland.”
Encouraged by your efforts and their own faith, Francis said, “their determination to do good will grow.”
The Pope also urged the bishops to reach out to the faithful, and especially the young, with a solid social ministry, preparing them to “remain in their territories as protagonists responsible for the reconstruction and growth of your country, from which they should not only expect to receive.”
Francis told the bishops that he looked forward to visiting Sarajevo to meet their people personally, but in the meantime assured them of “the love, attention and closeness of the Church of Rome.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter as tdwilliamsrome.