Catholic Social Teaching

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Papal Messages for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Cover of Papal Messages for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees

The Church has celebrated the World Day of Migrants and Refugees each year since 1914. This is an occasion for the Church and people of faith to reflect upon the role migration has played in our tradition, express concern for migrants, refugees, and people on the move, and build awareness about the challenges and opportunities migration presents. Read our compilation of World Day of Migrants messages (also available in Spanish). Here you can also find Pope Francis’ 2016 message where he says all migrants are “our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all.”

The"Papal Messages of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees" compiled by CLINIC covers the rich history of statements issued by the Holy Father from 1995 to the present.

Download Papal Messages for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (pdf)


Lea nuestra compilación de mensajes sobre el Día Mundial de los Migrantes y Refugiados. Aquí usted también puede encontrar  el mensaje de Papa Francisco de 2016 donde el Santo Padre dice que todos los migrantes son “nuestros hermanos y hermanas que buscan una vida mejor lejos de la pobreza, del hambre, de la explotación y de la injusta distribución de los recursos del planeta, que deberían ser divididos ecuamente entre todos.”

Bajar Mensajes para las Jornadas Mundiales del Emigrante En Español (pdf)


All text is from the Vatican website.


Related CLINIC Resources

Compilation of Catholic Social Teaching Passages on Migration

Quotes from Pope Francis on Immigration

About CLINIC's Catholic Identity

Guiding Principles of CLINIC's Work




Compilation of Catholic Social Teaching Passages on Migration

Cover of Notable Quotes document

Modern Catholic social teaching is the body of social principles and moral teaching that is articulated in the papal, conciliar, and other official documents issued since the late nineteenth century dealing with the economic,political, and social order. This teaching is rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as well as in traditional philosophical and theological teachings of the Church.

CLINIC's "Modern Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration: Notable Quotes" is a compilation of excerpts from the encyclical and conciliar documents that are typically considered core texts, as well as some key teaching documents issued by national bishops conferences and Vatican congregations, which contribute to the ongoing development of Catholic social teaching.

The excerpts in the document are instances that touch on immigration issues. The depth and richness of Catholic social teaching is best understood through a direct reading of these documents.

Download Modern Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration: Notable Quotes (pdf)

This document will be updated periodically. Last updated June 18, 2015



Passages quoted in Modern Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration are from the following sources:

Major Documents

Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor) – Pope Leo XIII, 1891

Exsul Familia Nazarethana (Apostolic Constitution on the Spiritual Care to Migrants) – Pope Pius XII, 1952

Mater et Magistra, (Mother and Teacher) – Saint Pope John XXIII, 1961

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) –Saint Pope John XXIII, 1963

Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) Vatican Council II, 1965

Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) – Pope Paul VI, 1967

Octogesima Adveniens (A Call to Action) – Pope Paul VI, 1971

Justicia in Mundo (Justice in the World) – Synod of Bishops, 1971

Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) – Pope John Paul II, 1981

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern) – Saint Pope John Paul II, 1987

Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) – Saint Pope John Paul II, 1991

Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) – Saint Pope John Paul II, 1995

Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) – Pope Benedict XVI, 2005

Sacramentum Caritatis (Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist) – Pope Benedict XVI, 2007

Caritas in Veritate (In Charity and Truth) – Pope Benedict XVI, 2009

Evangelii Gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel) – Pope Francis, 2013

Laudato Si (On Care for Our Common Home) – Pope Francis, 2015

Other Papal And Vatican Statements Of Note

Instruction on the Pastoral Care of People Who Migrate – Sacred Congregation for Bishops, 1969

The Church and Peoples on the Move – Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 1978

Refugees are Neighbors – Saint Pope John Paul II, Message for Lent, 1990

Speech of Saint Pope John Paul II to the General Assembly of the International Catholic Migration Commission,1990

Refugees: A Challenge to Solidarity – Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 1992

Faith Works Through Charity – Saint Pope John Paul II Message for the 1997 World Day of Migrants.



Related CLINIC Resources

Papal Messages for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Quotes from Pope Francis on Immigration

About CLINIC's Catholic Identity

Guiding Principles of CLINIC's Work



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Quotes from Pope Francis on Immigration

Image from Pope Quote Document

Pope Francis has spoken out on immigration issues since the beginning of this papacy.

CLINIC's "Quotes from Pope Francis" is a compilation of select excerpts from Pope Francis' homilies, messages, and teaching documents on immigration issues.


Download Quotes from Pope Francis on Immigration (pdf)


 This document will be updated periodically. Last updated February 11, 2016.


Related CLINIC Resources

Compilation of Catholic Social Teaching Passages on Migration

Papal Messages for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees

About CLINIC's Catholic Identity

Guiding Principles of CLINIC's Work




Praying the Rosary with Our Lady of Guadalupe and Tales of Immigrants (Also Available In Spanish)

Praying the Rosary with Our Lady of Guadalupe and Tales of Immigrants - The Luminous Mysteries

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531, speaking in his native language and requesting that he go to the head of the church in Mexico and ask that a church be built in the place where she appeared. Juan Diego faced rejection and later was tested by having to persuade Bishop Juan de Zumárraga of the miraculous apparition. Mary offered him consolation and guidance. Faithfully following her instructions, Juan Diego went to the top of a hill, where he found his sign—a garden of roses in a typically barren spot. He picked the roses and brought them back to the Virgin Mary, who arranged them in his cloak. When Juan Diego returned to the bishop to present the roses and retell the story of Mary’s appearance, another miracle occurred. Mary’s image appeared on the cloak. Convinced by the miracles that Mary was indeed present, the bishop had a church built as she had asked. Juan Diego’s cloak was placed above the altar, where it is still displayed. For many, Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a source of strength, protection, and encouragement to remain faithful through trials and hardship.

The Rosary helps to recall significant mysteries in our faith and brings us into prayer around them. With these reflections about the lives of immigrants with whom the staffs of our affiliates have worked, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) invites you to join us in praying for dignity and justice for our immigrant sisters and brothers. Just as the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary shed light on an important aspect of Christ’s mission, we hope these reflections will shed light on some immigrant experiences.

How to Pray the Rosary

    1. Begin by making the Sign of the Cross. Then say the Apostles Creed.
    2. Recite the Our Father.
    3. Recite a Hail Mary on each of these three beads.
    4. Recite the Glory Be. Then meditate on the first mystery, followed by the Our Father.
    5. Recite 10 Hail Marys, one for each bead of the decade.
    6. Recite a Glory Be. Then meditate on the second mystery, followed by the Our Father.
    7. Recite 10 Hail Marys, one for each bead of the decade.
    8. Recite a Glory Be. Then meditate on the third mystery, followed by the Our Father.
    9. Recite 10 Hail Marys, one for each bead of the decade.
    10. Recite a Glory Be. Then meditate on the fourth mystery, followed by the Our Father.
    11. Recite 10 Hail Marys, one for each bead of the decade.
    12. Recite a Glory Be. Then meditate on the fifth mystery, followed by the Our Father.
    13. Recite 10 Hail Marys, one for each bead of the decade.
    14. Recite the Hail Holy Queen and end with making the Sign of the Cross.

Pentecost: On Fire for Immigration Reform

The Feast of Pentecost is upon us! This is a time to celebrate the missionary outburst to share the evangelii gaudium, the joy of the Gospel, with all people. And, it is at this wondrous time that we join Catholics in prayerful action to repair our disjointed immigration system.

Pentecost is an ancient feast marking the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)

“The birthday of the Church,” Pentecost takes place fifty days after Easter and notes the endowment of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit to Christians:  wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. 

This Pentecost, may we be inspired by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to practice these virtues for the promotion of human dignity and the protection of the most vulnerable among us. If we are “truly wise” and “understanding” we will relish what is right and just for immigrants in our country and will work with “fortitude” for genuine immigration reform, sustained by the “piety” of love and hope.

May the feast of Pentecost rekindle in our hearts the fire of God’s love for all, and energize us to continue the work of immigration reform in partnership with our immigrant sisters and brothers, who are participating in the mission of the Holy Spirit to “renew the face of the Earth”—and of the United States of America.

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Basics of Catholic Social Teaching and Migration

In advocating on behalf of migrants, immigrants, and refugees, it is important to understand that the Catholic position is based on Catholic social teaching, which is derived from the Gospels and the words of Christ; statements and encyclicals of the Popes; and statements and pastoral letters of bishops around the world, including the bishops of the United States.

Download the PDF

Webinar: Children Traveling Alone: The Catholic Church’s Response

 This webinar discusses why unaccompanied children are coming to the United States, where they are staying, what services the Church is providing, and how you can help.   Panelists include experts on the root causes of migration from Central America and the emergency, social, and legal services available to these minor children. 


  • Sarah Bronstein, Senior Attorney, CLINIC
  • Richard Jones, Deputy Regional Director for Global Solidarity and Justice in L. America and the Caribbean, Catholic Relief Services
  • Kim Burgo, Senior Director Disaster Response Operations, Catholic Charities USA
  • Kristyn Peck, Associate Director of Children’s Services, Migration and Refugee Services, USCCB
  • Martin Gauto, Field Support Coordinator, CLINIC
  • Ashley Feasley, Immigration Policy Advisor, Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, USCCB
  • Allison Posner, Director of Advocacy, CLINIC
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Justice For Immigrants Lenten Toolkit

Toolkit cover - image of cross in the desert

The Justice for Immigrants campaign, of which CLINIC is a part, has put together this Lenten toolkit (also available in Spanish) for parishes and communities to use during Lent. It offers weekly resources to accompany you through your Lenten journey. The resources are designed to help you reflect on the biblical call for immigration reform, and act to impact our current political reality.

The Lenten Immigration Resources will provide you with stories, scripture readings, prayers and reflection questions for personal use or to share with a group.

We hope you find these tools useful and engage in a Lenten sacrifice of prayer and advocacy to fix our broken immigration system.

Download the 2015 Lenten Toolkit (pdf)

Download the 2015 Lenten Toolkit in Spanish (pdf)

Download a flyer to promote the 2015 Lenten Toolkit (pdf)



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Catholic Social Teaching and Migration Presentation

This presentation, which was first given in July 2008, gives an overview of Catholic social teaching on migration. Topics include:

  • Who is my neighbor? How can I be a neighbor?;
  • Principles of Catholic social teaching;
  • The dignity of the person and respect for life;
  • Community and the common good;
  • God-given rights and responsibilities;
  • Preferential option (decision) for the poor;
  • Dignity of work;
  • Solidarity and the human family;
  • Care for God's creation;
  • And much more.
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Help Educate Catholics on Immigration Issues

On May 10, 2005, the U.S. Catholic Bishops launched the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) Campaign in an effort to educate Catholics, including Catholic public officials, and other people of good will, about Catholic social teaching concerning immigrants.  The goals of the Campaign are to raise the awareness about the positive contributions of immigrants to our society and to advocate for changes in immigration law.  Congress should provide an orderly and safe pathway for undocumented people to integrate into our society.

We need your help to educate Catholics and others of good will about Catholic social teaching with respect to immigrants.  Please help us change hearts and minds by spreading what we teach: 

  • No person is a criminal in the eyes of God merely for being undocumented.  No good Samaritan should ever be considered a criminal for providing humanitarian assistance to another person in need.
  • All people regardless of their immigration status deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • The Catholic Church does not support illegal immigration.  It respects a nation’s sovereign right to control its borders for the common good.  If the laws that control the border do not serve the common good, then they are not fair and just.
  • Catholic social teaching instructs us that people have a responsibility to care for their families.  People have a right to live in their own country.  Yet, if society prevents them from caring for their families due to poverty or other circumstances, then they have a right to migrate to support their family.  If our economy needs these workers to fill jobs that Americans will not take, a fair and just law would allow them to enter legally.
  • People do not want to migrate illegally.  People would migrate legally if they could.
  • Catholics make up 23 percent of the U.S. population.  We are an immigrant nation and an immigrant church.  Immigrants are a positive force for our country.

The JFI Campaign needs your help to raise the awareness among Catholics.  They must see the human face of undocumented immigration and recognize the positive contributions that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, make to our country.

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Statements of Pope Benedict XVI Regarding Immigration

Words from His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Regarding Immigration
During His Apostolic Journey to the United States
April 15-20 2008

Interview with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, during his flight to America, Tuesday, 15 April 2008
(Question from Andrés Leonardo Beltramo Álvarez): 

“Your Holiness…There is an enormous growth in Hispanic presence also in the Church in the United States in general: The Catholic community is becoming ever more bilingual and ever more bicultural.  At the same time, there exists in the society an increasing anti-immigration movement.  The situation of the immigrants is characterized by unstable situations and discrimination.  Do you intend to speak of this problem and to invite America to welcome immigrants, many of whom are Catholic?”

(Response from Pope Benedict XVI):  
“…I certainly will touch on this point.  I have received various "ad limina" visits from the Central American bishops and also from South America, and I have seen the amplitude of this problem, above all the grave problem of the separation of families.  And this is truly dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric of these countries. Nevertheless, one must differentiate between measures that must be adopted right away and long-term solutions.

The fundamental solution is that there would no longer exist the need to emigrate because there would be in one's own country sufficient work, a sufficient social fabric, such that no one has to emigrate.  Therefore we should all work for this objective, for a social development that permits offering citizens work and a future in their land of origin.  And also about this point, I would like to speak with the President, because above all the United States should help with the aim that these countries can develop in this way.  This is in the interest of everyone, not just of these countries, but of the world, and also of the United States.

Besides this, short-term measures: It is very important to help the families above all.  In the light of the conversations that I have had with the bishops, the principal problem is that there be protection for the families, that they not be destroyed.  What can be done should be done.  In the same way, naturally, all that is possible must be done to work against the instability of the situations and against all the violations, and to help so that they can have a truly dignified life where they find themselves in this moment.

I would like to also say that there are many problems, many sufferings, but there is also a lot of hospitality!  I know that above all the American episcopal conference collaborates a lot with the Latin American episcopal conferences in the face of needed help.  With all the sorrowful things, let's not forget also so much true humanity, so many positive actions that also exist.”

Final Holy See – US Joint Statement, Oval Office, Wednesday, 16 April 2008

“The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.”

Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Wednesday, 16 April 2008

“Many of the people to whom John Carroll and his fellow Bishops were ministering two centuries ago had traveled from distant lands.  The diversity of their origins is reflected in the rich variety of ecclesial life in present-day America.  Brother Bishops, I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrow and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home.  This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations.  From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’  These are the people whom America has made her own.”

Holy Mass, Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI, Washington Nationals Stadium, Thursday, 17 April 2008 
(In Spanish):  “The Church in the United States, welcoming in its bosom so many of its immigrant children, has been growing also thanks to the vitality of the testimony of faith from Spanish-speaking faithful.  For this, the Lord calls you to continue contributing to the future of the Church in this country and the spreading of the Gospel.  Only if you are united to Christ and among yourselves, will your evangelizing testimony be credible and bloom with copious fruits of peace and reconciliation in the midst of a world many times marked by division and conflicts.  The Church hopes much from you.  In your generous commitment, do not let it down.  ‘What you have received freely, give freely’ (Matthew 10:8).  Amen!”

Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI, Yankee Stadium,Sunday, 20 April 2008
“Today we recall the bicentennial of a watershed in the history of the Church in the United States: its first great chapter of growth.  In these two hundred years, the face of the Catholic community in your country has changed greatly.  We think of the successive waves of immigrants whose traditions have so enriched the Church in America…In our day, too, the Catholic community in this nation has been outstanding in its prophetic witness in the defense of life, in the education of the young, in care for the poor, the sick, and the stranger in your midst.”

(In Spanish):  “Here, in this country of freedom, I want to proclaim with strength that the Word of Christ does not eliminate our aspirations to a full and free life, but rather in it we discover our true dignity as sons of God and it encourages us to fight against all that enslaves us, beginning with our own egotism and whims.  At the same time, it encourages us to manifest our faith through our life of charity and make our ecclesial lives be each day more welcoming and fraternal.  Above all to the youth I entrust you to take on the great challenge that comes with believing in Christ, and to manifest your faith through closeness to the poor, and through generous responses to the calls that He continues to make to leave everything and begin a life of total consecration to God and the Church, in the priestly or religious life.  Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to look to the future with hope, allowing Jesus to enter into your lives.  Only He is the path that leads to the happiness that never ends, the truth that satisfies the noblest human aspirations, and the life overflowing with joy for the good of the Church and the world.  May God bless you.”

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