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Theology professor advises at Vatican

Liz O'Donnell | Friday, November 13, 2009

Notre Dame Theologian Fr. Daniel Groody said he was “moved to learn about the ways the Church is trying to create solutions for migrants” when he participated in a congress on the subject this past week at the Vatican.

Groody was selected as one of six expert academics from different parts of the world to participate at the “World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees in the era of Globalization” at the Vatican. He said his work directly fit into the subject of the invitation-only conference.

“I did not seek this appointment but was asked in the spring if I would come to the Congress as a scholar who has been teaching, researching, writing and doing films about the topics of theology, international migration and globalization, which made my work a natural fit for this Congress,” he said.

With his main area of research in utilizing theology as a guide to globalization and migration, Groody used his work with many different people over his career to guide his participation in the Congress.

“I have been working with migrants in the deserts, mountains and canals of the U.S.-Mexican border, as well as in various parish ministries throughout the United States,” he said. “More recently I have been working with immigrants at the borders between Spain-Morocco, Malta-Libya and Slovakia-Ukraine.”

Groody said he used the input from these people in three different ways: their outer journey, inner journey and human journey.

“As I spend time listening to the stories of migrants, I look at first the response of the Church to migrants their outer journey, second the spirituality of these migrants their inner journey, third a theology of migration the human journey or how theology gives us a way of understanding who we are before God as a pilgrim people and how we can understand God’s movement to us in Jesus as a divine migration,” he said.

Groody said his responsibilities in Rome consist of drafting a final document released by the Congress.

He said the process has been tedious and he has spent a large amount of time working on the document.

“This process involves a lot of listening, analysis, reflecting and writing.  I go to bed late and get up early, trying to take the insights of people working with migrants in various parts of the world, and then collaborating with five other people in putting together the final version,” he said.

In addition to his duties in partaking in the conference discussions, Groody said he is the only theologian who was formally invited to participate on the committee for the final document because the other scholars at the Congress specialized mainly in social sciences.

On Monday, the Pope received the group in the Clementina Room of the Vatican. Groody said this experience was touching and said the Pope was very concerned over the issue of treating migrants with fairness.

“If the migrants I have met over the years at the U.S. and European borders were there with me, my visit would have been complete,” he said.  “We were there to raise their status, not ours.  But I know that they would have been pleased to know that the Pope made their concerns an important concern in his work.”