Vatican City, 18 December 2015 (VIS) – The Bilateral Commission of the Delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews held its 13th meeting in Jerusalem in the offices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on the theme “Migrants and refugees: threat or opportunity?” on 16 and 17 December. At the end of the event the Commission issued a joint statement, which began by commemorating the recently deceased Cardinal Jorge Mejia, the first Catholic co-chair of the Bilateral Commission, and conveyed wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen.
The meeting, chaired by Chief Rabbi Rasson Arousi and Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, focused primarily on the “enormous current humanitarian crisis in the form of hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum and the challenges this poses”, highlighting a number of issues, including the tensions between the obligation to welcome and “love the stranger as yourself” while meeting one’s responsibilities to one’s own identity, society, community and specific religious mission; the challenge posed by migration in terms of the fullness and authenticity of human existence and experience, and the moral demands for respect for human dignity that cannot be ignored.
During the meeting, it was reiterated that Jews and Christians are required to address these challenges and to do the utmost to ensure that the Divine Image in which all humanity is created is respected and fostered fully among migrant and refugee populations.
Similarly, immigrants are to be recognised as a blessed resource to be welcomed and respected for their human dignity, and as potential to contribute to the positive growth and development of society. To help influence public opinion and legislatures to regulate and more effectively implement immigration procedures, mindful of the preferred destinations of migrants themselves.
Finally, the Bilateral Commission attended a presentation on Israeli initiatives to address the plight of refugees and victims of conflict.