‘Father of migrants’ canonised

A 19th-century bishop known as ‘the father of migrants’ has been canonised.

Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, who died in 1905, founded men’s and women’s religious orders to serve migrants. His canonisation is a reminder to Church leaders of the Pope’s focus on the plight of immigrants. Photo: ctbi.org.uk

A 19th-century bishop known as ‘the father of migrants’ has been canonised.

Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini lived at a time of mass migrations in Europe. The migrations reflected the economic, industrial and scientific changes that led millions to seek a new life in the Americas. His advocacy for immigrants founded the Catholic Church’s pastoral approach to migration today. 

‘With this canonisation, I think the Holy Father wants to offer the Church a model to imitate,’ said Rev Graziano Battistella, who shepherded Scalabrini’s cause for sainthood. He is ‘a model for bishops, a model for the Church.’

Pope Francis waived the necessity for a second miracle attributed to the father of migrants, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Born in Como, Italy, in 1839, Scalabrini founded the Missionaries of St Charles Borromeo (called Scalabrinian Fathers) in 1887. He later established the Missionary Sisters of St Charles.

Migration was viewed negatively at the time. Scalabrini, however, saw the upheaval as a chance to ease socio-economic tensions at home while promoting cultural encounter and jump-starting progress. Without laws and protections in place, migration could strip people of their roots and make them prey to human traffickers, he warned.

Unusually for the time, Scalabrini believed migration is not only ‘a sacred human right’ but a basic fact of human existence. The answers Scalabrini offered to migration anticipated modern times, said Sr Neusa de Fatima Mariano, Superior of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles.

The new saint was especially sensitive to the role women religious play in helping migrants. The sisters now run over 100 missions in the world catering especially to women and children. In addition, the Scalabrinian Secular Missionary Women, founded in Switzerland in 1961, and other lay groups live out Scalabrini’s teachings in local communities.

The Scalabrinian Fathers operate parishes, hospitals and welcoming centres in 33 countries. The Rev Leonir Chiarello, superior general of the order, said that the missionaries champion the rights of migrants at borders and other critical places around the world.

Scalabrini’s vision continues today in the dozens of welcoming centres for migrants in South America and Italy.

Source: Religion News Service