"Welcoming the Stranger": A dialogue between Scriptural understandings of and Catholic Church policies towards migrants and refugees and pastoral praxis in the migrant and refugee pastoral care bodies within the Archdiocese of Perth
Date of Award
Doctor of Pastoral Theology (PThD)
Schools and Centres
Philosophy and Theology
Reverend Professor Peter Black
Growth in human movement around the world has been one of the phenomenal aspects of globalization since the Second World War. Among these ‘people on the move’ those whom the United Nations Humanitarian Commission for Refugees has described as ‘persons of concern’ – refugees, displaced persons etc. – have increased at an alarming rate. They are now well in excess of the global population growth rate over the same period Many of these have moved into adjacent poorer developing countries but increasingly many are seeking asylum, either through official United Nations’ channels or through on-shore arrivals, in developing nations. This poses serious issues for national governments and societies in relation to national boundaries, citizenship criteria and the religious-ethnic compositions of their populations.
Among the global institutions which are concerned with this phenomenon of ‘people on the move’ are the Christian Churches, especially the Catholic Church, at universal, national and regional levels. As the largest global Christian institution and with representation at the United Nations, the Catholic Church is primarily concerned with the human dignity of these people on the move and the special care they deserve as they penetrate their new societies and reconfigure their new settlements and their ethnic compositions. Such concern spills over into an ontological exploration of ‘the stranger’ in the context of Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and how migrants and refugees in the form of these new arrivals, many of whom are non-Catholic and non-Christian, are leading to a ‘new catholicity’ which is ecumenical and dialogical.
Given this scenario, this thesis makes use of the methodology of practical theology to explore the Scriptural bases for the Church’s imperative to reach out to ‘the stranger’, the sojourner, the alien in our midst; to examine the Church’s teaching on the migrant and the refugee; and, finally, to place these teachings in dialogical relationship with the empirical practice of agencies within one particular region of the Australian Church – the Archdiocese of Perth in Western Australia. By so doing, it demonstrates how an ongoing dialogue between ‘theory’ in the form of Church teaching and ‘praxis’ in the form of empirical practice and reflection on that practice can lead to new and more innovative interaction between the two. It also shows how, ultimately, this can give rise to a deeper and Christologically-based relationship between ‘the stranger in our midst’ and the Church’s faithful, especially those who extend care to the ‘stranger’. Because it is not confined only to Catholic migrants and refugees in its study, it also shows how the many-facetted ‘other’ entering our society displays to us the many faces of the one God we worship and enables us to extend our awarenesses of ourselves as Christian and Catholic as we attempt to cater for the spiritual and pastoral needs of the migrant and refugee.
A thesis submitted by Judith Marilyn Woodward in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor in Pastoral Theology University of Notre Dame Australia 2009.
Woodward, J. M. (2009). "Welcoming the stranger": A dialogue between scriptural understandings of and Catholic Church policies towards migrants and refugees and pastoral praxis in the migrant and refugee pastoral care bodies within the archdiocese of Perth (Doctoral thesis). University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, WA.