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The Pope’s message is one more element of the process of integration in society, and for us in the Church this means Catholic integration. The Pope says that in order to build the future, we should get to know each other, said Bishop Krzysztof Zadarko, Chairman of the Council of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for Migration, Tourism and Pilgrimages, at a press conference organised by Poland’s Catholic News Service on the occasion of the 108th World Migrant and Refugee Day, which we will celebrate on Sunday, September 25.

Bishop Zadarko recalled that there are currently around 170 million refugees in the world. “This poses challenges that the Church is flagging. The Pope’s message continues the Church’s ministry to migrants and refugees. Last year’s papal message called on us to start seeing ourselves in terms of +we+ rather than +we-they+. We should do everything to see the other as our sisters and brothers,” pointed out the prelate.

Bishop Zadarko reminded us that here on earth we are on the road, making our way to the heavenly Jerusalem. “Building the Kingdom of God can be real when we go out to people with the message of the Kingdom of God, which cannot be done without integration,” he noted.

The Chairman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Council for Migration, Tourism and Pilgrimages stressed that in the case of refugees from Ukraine, we are currently moving from the reception stage to building a future with those who will remain in Poland. “We expect that the state will indicate what the model of integration of Polish society should look like,” he added.

“I would like to thank everyone without exception, including the authorities, local governments, organisations, foundations and parishes, monasteries, and seminaries, for welcoming and helping the refugees,” stressed Bishop Zadarko.

Fr. Marcin Iżycki, Director of Caritas Poland, indicated how Caritas Poland together with Caritas in dioceses has been responding to the refugee crisis since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. As he observed, “We have provided support in the form of material gifts to the amount of PLN 140 million. Since February 24, the 32 centres for migrants and refugees that have been established across Poland have provided regular assistance: material support, legal aid, psychological counselling, educational support, and help in finding employment.”

Fr. Iżycki added that Caritas Poland has launched a Parcel for Ukraine programme. “So far, 40,000 parcels worth PLN 300-400, for a total amount of PLN 14 million, have been delivered to those in need. We intend to launch two large programmes: +Family to Family+, as a support for families remaining in Ukraine, and psychological assistance in Ukraine,” he pointed out.

“At the moment, we are concerned with helping and integrating refugees into Polish society. We are preparing for long-term work in this respect in various forms throughout Poland. We will continue to help until this help is needed,” stressed the director of Caritas Poland.

Fr. Mieczyslaw Puzewicz, representative of the Archbishop of Lublin for assistance to the excluded, pointed out that ideas for integration are much needed: “Refugees from Ukraine are not a problem, but an enrichment of our culture. We Poles need a new brotherhood in which there will be room for people who speak a different language, profess a different religion and represent a different culture.”

Lidia Pavlovycz, a refugee from Ukraine, thanked Poles for their help extended to refugees. Lidia is currently working and helping other refugees as a volunteer. As she indicated: “I am very grateful for courses of the Polish language and for different excursions. A lot of refugees have been able to find housing and jobs. I am grateful for everything.”

Behnam Rahbarifard, a refugee from Iran, came to Poland eight years ago. “The volunteer centre is a new lease on life for me; it is my second family. What refugees need is to faster integrate with other people and to have contact with them. Material aid is second to that,” pointed out Mr. Rahbarifard.

Kordian Urlich, a volunteer hosting a refugee family from Mikolayev in his home, presented his ministry at a volunteer centre in Lublin. “The challenge resulting from the wave of refugees from Ukraine puts us in a difficult position. My wife and I, and our children, decided to give someone a place to stay. We offered our home to Katya and her son. After these few months we can say that they have integrated with us completely. They are familiar with the Polish reality. They participate with us in all holidays and family celebrations,” he stressed.

Translation: M. Turski/ the Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference