The Family of Nazareth: a model for today's Europe

EP Manger 2015


Inauguration of the 2015 Christmas Crib of the European Parliament in Brussels


On 8 December 2015, with Christmas and its universal message of Peace approaching, MEP Luigi Morgano (Italy, S&D Group) decided to organize a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels on "The value of welcoming", as a chance to reflect on this topic which is at the centre of the debates during the last months because of the humanitarian crisis that many populations are living, especially in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Afghanistan. This event also inaugurated the 2015 Christmas’ Crib of the European Parliament, with the presence of Fr. Patrick Daly, Secretary General of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). 

MEPs, NGOs and civil society representatives were invited to take part in this event in order to respond, each with his own sensitivity and experience, to this challenge, “that is first and foremost a human challenge, as well as a political one”. FAFCE also participated, with a speech by its Secretary General, Maria Hildingsson. Mr Morgano introduced the meeting with some remarks which highlighted the connection between the European Parliament’s 2015 Christmas Crib and the one inaugurated some days before in Assisi by Pope Francis himself: here the Christmas Manger was installed in a boat that brought some migrants from Tunisia to safety on the Southern Italian island of Lampedusa. At the European Parliament, the Manger was put in the middle of a photography exhibition entitled “Syrians in transit. From Syria to Europe seeking asylum” which describes the voyage undertaken by Syrian families escaping from the war, towards a peaceful life in Europe.

Fr Patrick Daly, COMECE Secretary General, gave a short theological reflexion on the value of welcoming, starting with a quote from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13,2). He said that in this historical moment the European Union is called to rediscover the values on which it was founded: forgiveness and reconciliation. “This means – he said – that we need to rediscover the original project of the founding fathers, Schuman, De Gasperi and Adenauer”. He continued, affirming that “faced with the current tragedy, we are called to invite other people to be part of this project.” Referring to the Manger, he continued: “At the same time, we have the right to share with them our identity, as a privilege, as a gift: these persons, once arrived in Europe, will see this little Child in the manger, everywhere, in our museums, in our houses, in our churches… And they will ask themselves: who is this Child?” Mrs Cécile Kyenge, MEP (Italy, S&D Group), former Italian Minister for Integration, in talking about a holistic

Tempesta Toia Hildingsson Daly Morganoapproach to the migration phenomenon, stressed the importance of leaving an “emergence approach” and going towards the creation of “humanitarian corridors” to enable refugees to escape from war zones in a safe manner. Mrs Patrizia Toia, MEP, Head of the Italian Delegation within the S&D Group, intervened, praising Mr Morgano’s initiative as a way to overcome the fear which is currently spreading even in areas which were used to welcome new people. She also gave the example of the City of Milan as a “hope-spot” for refugees. Ms Marie Tempesta (Migration Officer, Caritas Europe), explained Caritas Europe’s concrete proposals on possible safe and legal paths to Europe.

Mrs Maria Hildingsson, FAFCE Secretary General, spoke on the hot topic of Family reunification, considered as a human and legal imperative: she recalled that the European Social Charter protects the rights of migrant families (Art. 19), while the Charter of the Rights of the Family states that “The families of migrants have the right to the same protection as that accorded other families.” She called on European institutions to protect real peace, in order to avoid refugees’ families being obliged to leave their homes and their countries: “To do that – she said – it’s important to protect the family, as the first school of peace.” Then, the project creators of the exhibition "Syrians in transit", Ms Marta MANTEGAZZA, Ms Anna PASOTTI and Ms Alessandra PEZZA, described the origins and the developments of their project, which consisted in following the flux of migrants since their arrival in Europe, precisely in Catania (Sicily), crossing the Italian Peninsula, with a stop in Milan and continuing the trip towards Sweden, seen as a major destination for Syrian refugees. They underlined how this long trip is full of risks, especially for families which are often separated during their travels.

After the concluding remarks made by Mr Morgano, the attendance and the speakers moved to the European Parliament Exhibition Area where Fr. Patrick Daly blessed the Christmas Manger after some words of encouragement for the work of the Members of the European Parliament and to all of those who work in favour of human dignity. The representation of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, in the framework of a photographic exhibition on Syrian refugees’ families, in a symbolic place like the European Parliament, makes the centre of the Christian message very clear, with the reality of the Verb which became flesh, bringing Meaning into the midst of human suffering.