Local Church to Foster Migrants, Refugees’ Dignity: Religious Superior Visiting S. Africa

From left to right: Fr. Constant Munkala, Fr. Jorge Guerra, Fr. Mario Geremia, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, Fr. Leonir Chiarellon and Fr. Eduardo Gabriel. Credit: St Patrick's La Rochelle

There is need for the local Church to take up the responsibility of welcoming and promoting the dignity of refugees and migrants, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Charles (Scalabrinians) who is on a canonical visit to South Africa has said. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Leonir Chiarello acknowledged with appreciation the ministry of his confreres in the “evangelization programs” and the “network of shelters and houses for migrants and refugees” in South Africa’s Archdioceses of Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“It is the duty of the local church, of everyone, not only the Scalabrinians, but it’s also the Church’s responsibility to welcome migrants and refugees, to protect them and to promote their dignity,” Fr. Chiarello said during the Thursday, August 11 interview.

Credit: St Patrick's La Rochelle

The local church, the Superior General of the Religious Order that fosters service to migrants, refugees, seafarers, and people on the move said, “ought to recognize in each person, in each human being a brother, a sister, as our faith invites us to welcome people from other countries and to help them, to protect them and to help them to integrate in society.”


Fr. Chiarello who previously served as a member of the World Refugee & Migration Council highlighted the presence of the Scalabrinians in the mission of the Church across the globe. 

He told ACI Africa, “We are currently present in 34 countries. We are in parishes and missions where we provide evangelization programs, and then we have a network of shelters and houses for migrants and refugees.”

Credit: St Patrick's La Rochelle

“For example, here in Johannesburg we have a shelter for migrant women and their children, and Parishes. And in Cape Town we are working in Parishes; we have the Scalabrini Center, and we also have a center for seafarers, the Stella Maris Center, as we have a Stella Maris network in several countries,” he said. 

The 55-year-old Superior General of the Scalabrinians who interacted with Archbishop Buti Joseph Thlagale of Johannesburg Archdiocese and Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town Archdiocese during his 13-day Canonical visit to South Africa lauded members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) for their initiatives in the care for migrants and refugees in the region.

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He said, “There is a remarkable commitment of the Bishops and the Church here in South Africa and on the rest of the continent as far as caring for migrants and refugees is concerned.”

Fr. Leonir Chiarello and Archbishop Buti Tlhagale during visit to St Patrick Catholic Church in Johannesburg. Credit: St Patrick's La Rochelle

“So, what we expressed to Archbishops Buti Tlhagale and Stephen Brislin here in Cape Town, is our commitment with our specific charism of working with migrants and refugees and to contribute to the remarkable commitment that they have already put in place at Diocesan and parish level, and within the different groups of the Catholic Church”, the Brazilian-born Superior General of the Scalabrinians told ACI Africa August 11.

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.