Afghan refugees at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., embrace family members Sept. 2, 2021, before boarding buses that will take them to a processing center. CNS photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters

Canada in ‘unique’ spot to aid world’s refugees

  • September 9, 2021

Canada’s Catholics have more and better opportunities than most to back up Pope Francis’ call for the Church to reach out and help the world’s 82.4 million forcibly displaced people, said Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto director Deacon Rudy Ovcjack.

In his message for the Sept. 27 World Day of Refugees, Pope Francis calls for a new openness to refugees and migrants of all kinds.

“This is the ideal of the new Jerusalem, where all peoples are united in peace and harmony, celebrating the goodness of God and the wonders of creation. To achieve this ideal, however, we must make every effort to break down the walls that separate us,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Because Canadian citizens can privately sponsor refugees through independent organizations such as ORAT, Canada’s Catholics have no reason not to take on this challenge from their Pope, Ovcjack said.

“In Canada we have a unique situation through the private sponsorship of refugees program, where Catholics have the opportunity to be directly involved in coming to the aid of refugees,” Ovcjack wrote in an e-mail to The Catholic Register. “Parishioners are given the opportunity to take an active role in welcoming and journeying with the refugee when they arrive in Canada.”

Private sponsorship is a policy that was pioneered by Canada in response to the Vietnamese boat people crisis of 1978 to 1981.

This year ORAT is looking for ways to participate in Ottawa’s promise to bring 20,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. The program for interpreters who worked with Canadian Forces, for Afghan staff at the Canadian embassy and others is beginning to take shape and ORAT is encouraging parishes to be ready when the opportunity to sponsor Afghanis arises.

For Canadian Catholics in particular, there’s great appreciation for the contributions refugees have made to Canadian society, Ovcjack said.

“We have seen the great contributions made to our city and our country by those who have come from many nations. I think of the many refugees that came to Canada after World War II, and how they and their children and their children’s children have contributed to the strengthening of our nation,” Ovcjack said.

Cardinal Thomas Collins will celebrate a Mass for World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sept. 26 at. 5 p.m. The Mass will be live-streamed from St. Michael’s Cathedral.

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