Shepherding an Itinerant Flock


A Survey of Institutions & Jurisdictional Structures

for the Pastoral Care of Filipino Migrant Workers. #

by Fr. Jaime B. Achacoso, J.C.D.


The Philippine Culture of Migration and the Ecclesial Response.

Even Church documents recognize that today’s migration makes up the vastest movement of people of all times. “In these last decades—the latest major document affirms—the phenomenon, now involving about two hundred million individuals worldwide, has turned into a structural reality of contemporary society. It is becoming an increasingly complex problem from the social, cultural, political, religious, economic and pastoral points of view.” #
Closer to our topic, since the 1970s the Philippines has been supplying all kinds of skilled and low-skilled workers to the world’s more developed regions. As of December 2004, an estimated 8.1 million Filipinos—nearly 10 % of the country’s 85 million people—were working and/or residing in close to 200 countries and territories.# The Philippines is the second largest labor exporter in the world, next only to Mexico.# As one expert on Filipino migration would affirm: “In the last 30 years, a culture of migration has emerged, with millions of Filipinos eager to work abroad, despite the risks and vulnerabilities they are likely to face.” #
In fact, this same expert continues, “the development of a culture of migration in the Philippines has been greatly aided by migration’s institutionalization. The government facilitates migration, regulates the operations of the recruitment agencies, and looks out for the rights of its migrant workers. More importantly, the remittances workers send homes have become a pillar of the country’s economy.” # Data from the Central Bank of the Philippines showed that such remittances reached US$16.4 billion in 2008, up more than 13% from 2007 figures. The trend does not seem to show any sign of slackening, and the same source projects a record US$ 17.1 billion total remittance for 2009. #
Indeed, the phenomenon of Filipino migrant workers—more commonly referred to as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)—seems to be on the rise and destined to become more significant in the near and middle-term future. A closer look at the composition of the OFWs population reveals the seriousness of the phenomenon. While initially Philippine labor migration was largely limited to men—sailors and laborers for the great construction boom in the Middle East—, in the past 20 years the tremendous demand for nurses, health care fields and domestic helpers has leveled the gender divide. Of even greater concern is the age composition of the OFWs, because the preponderant majority of the Filipinas going abroad now are relatively young. The latest figures of the International Labor Organization show that 35% of all OFWs belong to the 15-24 years old bracket.#
Less known is the increasing numbers of Filipinos going abroad not just to seek employment but to find a partner for life. The latest records of the Commission on Overseas Filipinos (CFO) show that an average of 24,000 Filipinos leave the country annually to get married abroad, with the total as of latest count at 333,672 Filipino spouses to foreign nationals from 1989 to 2007, 90% of whom were female from the National Capital Region and Central Luzon.# Considering that statistically 90% of Filipinos are Catholic, these figures mean that around 300,300 Filipinos have found foreign spouses in the past two decades alone. The pastoral implications of such predominantly mixed unions are staggering.
Less known still is the darker side of labor migration. In effect, while the positive economic effects of the millions of OFWs are undeniable, it is equally undeniable that many of these souls are in quite precarious situations. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippine Government affirms, for example, that some 3,000 OFWs are languishing in prison worldwide. While 70% of them face immigration-related charges and are expected to be simply repatriated after serving short prison terms, the rest are in custody for committing common crimes, including theft and drug trafficking. In the Middle East alone, in late 2009 there were 62 OFWs in prison for drug-related charges; 43 of them, mostly women, in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). #
The ecclesial dimension of this phenomenon is a veritable challenge to the Philippine hierarchy. It is something that the Philippine hierarchy cannot fail to attend to, especially since majority of the OFWs, as is the Philippine population at large, are faithful of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, while the Philippine Government has taken important steps towards institutionalizing Philippine labor migration—to the point that the Philippines has been cited as an international model for best practices in government migration policy—the ecclesiastical response to the OFW phenomenon leaves much to be desired. #
Many OFWs, especially in those countries of Catholic minority or—worse—where there is no Catholic hierarchy, are literally like sheep without shepherds, relying solely on the isolated missionaries or chaplains who may succeed in accompanying them in their place of overseas employment. For example, the latest data provided by the Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People (as of 24.XI.2008) showed that there were only nine priests—only six of them Filipinos—ministering to more than 1.5 million OFWs in the Middle East.# Since there is no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia (where there are close to 1 million OFWs), this means that there are only six Filipino priests ministering to about 500,000 OFWs spread out in six different countries, or something like 1 priest for every 80,000 OFWs.






ASIA, West 1,449,031 112,750 1,561,781
BAHRAIN 33,154 3,500 36,654
ISRAEL 14,051 23,000 37,051 4 Filipinos
JORDAN 5,885 7,000 12,885
KUWAIT 80,196 11,500 91,696 1 Filipino
LEBANON 28,318 6,100 34,418 1 Filipino;
2 Non-Filipinos
OMAN 18,941 1,500 20,441
QATAR 57,345 1,000 58,345
SAUDI ARABIA 976,134 18,000 994,134
UAE 185,562 20,000 205,562 1 Non-Filipino
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 49,445 21,150 70,595

In this study, I would like to focus on the possible solutions to the pastoral problems posed by the aforementioned phenomenon of Philippine labor migration. In the process, I hope to go beyond simply solving the problem posed by the Filipino migrant workers, and—following the lines of the familiar SWOT analysis in management—to look at how to convert an erstwhile weakness into a veritable opportunity, an ecclesial problem into a factor for evangelization.
In short, making a sneak preview of the conclusion of this article, and very much in line with this year’s 2000th Anniversary of St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, I would like to explore the possibilities offered by Canon Law to squarely face the challenge of adequately shepherding the itinerant flock of OFWs, so as to convert them into effective agents of evangelization—in much the same way that St Paul and the early Christians, forced into the diaspora by the persecution by the Jews in Palestine, became the intrepid sowers of the seeds of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. #

Limiting the Discussion: Shepherding a flock of 2.2 million OFWs.

Before proceeding further, however, I would like to limit the scope of the discussion, not only to a more manageable level, but also to what in my mind is the more relevant aspect as far as the OFWs are concerned.
In the first place, Church documents on the subject of the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people have always made a distinction between the Church of origin (ecclesia a qua) and the host Church or Church of arrival (ecclesia ad quam). Insofar as the Philippines is basically a labor exporting country, rather than a host country for migrants (whether workers or otherwise), the canonico-pastoral criteria and norms regarding host countries are of limited application.# Thus, the canonico-pastoral issue connected with the OFWs can be conveniently pared down to two: (1) the care of the Filipino migrant workers themselves in their respective countries of deployment; (2) the care of the families that the Filipino migrant workers leave behind in the Philippines. With respect to the latter, I am of the opinion that their pastoral needs do not really present any significant complications as to warrant a separate canonico-pastoral treatment—i.e., distinct from the cura ordinaria animarum provided by the particular Churches through the territorial parishes in the Philippines. Thus, I would like to limit this discussion to the care of the OFWs themselves in their respective countries of deployment.
In the second place, the canonico-pastoral orientations and norms applicable to the case of OFWs in their countries of deployment can be divided into two kinds: (1) those addressed to the host Church (ad quam) if and where such ecclesiastical hierarchy exists; (2) those addressed to the Church of origin (a qua)—i.e., the Catholic Church in the Philippines. Now then, since—realistically and practically speaking—there is little the Philippine Hierarchy can do as regards the Churches ad quam, I would like to focus this discussion on what the Church Hierarchy in the Philippines—either as individual dioceses or as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines collectively—can do in order to better take care of the OFWs.
In the third place, another distinction is in order. On the one hand are those Overseas Filipinos (OFs) who are stably migrated—i.e., mostly with resident visas or even dual citizenships, numbering around 3.2 million—and are therefore already incorporated to the particular Churches (host Churches) where they are. On the other hand are the so-called overseas contract workers (OCWs)— numbering around 3.6 million—usually on two-year contracts, albeit renewable but also rescindable at a moment’s notice for a host of reasons, including the unstable political situation in their areas of deployment. Given that the latest official records place the number of Overseas Filipinos (OFs) at 8.1 million, the unaccounted balance of about 1.3 million would have to be comprised of what have been referred to as illegals.# It is this group of 3.6 million OCWs and 1.3 million illegals who I would henceforth refer to as OFWs, since one and the other are Filipinos, overseas and working one way or another. These are the 4.9 million—let us round it off to 5 million by now—unstably migrated Filipinos.
In the fourth place, we also have to make a distinction between those countries—basically of Europe, North and South America, of a long Catholic tradition already—where ecclesiastical circumscriptions exist which can either provide adequate pastoral care to the migrants or at least allow such pastoral care to be organized. As Annex 2 would show, after subtracting the OFWs in such countries, there would still be 3.7 million OFWs outside the coverage of existing pastoral structures.
Finally, considering that there is no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia—and therefore the possibilities of organized pastoral care for the almost 1 million OFWs there would be almost nil—the number of OFWs who can be provided with pastoral care would be reduced to 2.7 million.
However, since statistically only about 85% of Filipinos are Catholics, this further brings down the figure to 2.2 million Catholic OFWs in need of pastoral care, which the Philippine Hierarchy may be able to provide. How best to provide such pastoral care, how to shepherd this itinerant flock of 2.2 million Catholic OFWs, is the object of the present study.

The Pastoral Notion of Migrant

The phenomenon of human mobility is varied and of different causes, but they can be unified from the point of view of pastoral care. Thus, Church documents have divided people on the move into migrants, refugees, seafarers, air travelers, nomads, tourists etc. Nevertheless, the category that has received the greatest attention is that of the migrants, and quite often the other forms of human mobility have been assimilated to them. Thus, the pastoral notion of migrant has evolved as all those who, through whatever reason, are living outside their own country or their own ethnic community and have a real need for a specific pastoral care.
From the pastoral viewpoint, then, the migrant is a faithful who is in need of the means of salvation that the Church has been entrusted by Christ to provide him with, just like the other faithful. The peculiarity of the pastoral care for migrants stems from the fact that they are in a situation where they cannot benefit from the ordinary pastoral care provided by the parish priest who presides over a community which is constituted on the basis of territory. The migrant’s peculiar situation requires from the Church a special attention, since the ordinary pastoral structures for the delivery of the ordinary means of salvation are inadequate in his case.

I. A Brief Historical Review of the Ecclesial Response

to the Phenomenon of Human Mobility.#


A. Early Attempts at Pastoral Care of Migrants:

The Vision of Bp. Giovanni Battista Scalabrini (1905).

The concern of the Church to take care of the spiritual needs of Catholic migrants in the past 150 years has been concretized in various initiatives on the part of the common faithful, of religious institutes and of the Hierarchy itself. As can be expected, the initial motivation was simply the conservation of the faith of the Catholic migrants who found themselves in new lands of less Catholic tradition—e.g., the Catholic Italians and Irish waves of migration to the predominantly Protestant United States in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, or even earlier the steady European migration to pagan South America. Initially, members of the clergy had accompanied groups setting off abroad to colonize new lands, but from the middle of the 19th Century onwards, the pastoral care of migrants was entrusted more frequently to missionary Congregations.#
More at the hierarchical-jurisdictional level, the first initiatives addressed immediate needs. In this regard, the pioneering work of Bl. Bishop Giavanni Battista Scalabrini (1839-1905) deserves special mention for his breadth of vision. He urged the Holy See to confront the pastoral needs of the Catholic immigrants to the Americas, providing the first ideas that would later find expression in the manifold jurisdictional and pastoral phenomena in favor of the Catholic migrants from Europe to the Americas.# The problems, observations and pastoral solutions presented up by Bp. Scalabrini—initially brought up in a series of letters to Pope Pius X and the Vatican Secretary of State Card. Merry del Val, culminating in a Memorial on a Commission for Catholic Migrants (Pro Emigrantis Catholicis) to the Holy See dated 4.V.1905—have an uncanny relevance to the situation of the Filipino migrant workers of our times.# Like the Catholic immigrants in the New World—thrown into either Protestant or simply secularized environments—the modern-day OFWs also find themselves falling prey to a very non-Christian environment, for lack of adequate pastoral care.
Though Scalabrini did not live to see it, the seed he planted at the very nerve center of the Catholic hierarchy soon bore fruits. For instance, in 1914 Pope Pius X erected a seminary for the formation of priests destined for the pastoral care of Italian immigrants, although it was not inaugurated until 1920 due to the outbreak of World War I.# This same year, a proper Prelate was constituted for the Italian immigrants.# Meanwhile in 1918, a sole Ordinary had also been constituted for the Catholic refugees (mostly from eastern Europe) in Italy.#
At the normative level, the growing concern of the Holy See was concretized in 1914 when the Consistorial Congregation (later to become the Congregation for Bishops) issued the decree Etnographica studia, which laid down the praxis to be followed by the clergy dedicated to the pastoral care of immigrants and underscored the responsibility of the host Church (ecclesia ad quam) of providing pastoral care to the faithful from other nations.#

B. The Aftermath of World War II: Pius XII’s Exsul Familia (1952)

The Pontificate of Pius XII witnessed an upsurge in human migration, occasioned by World War II and its aftermath, and consequently also a marked development in the pastoral care of migrants. A landmark document was the Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia, of 1.VIII.1952, generally regarded as the Magna Carta for the pastoral activity of the Church in favor of people on the move.# It was the first document of the Holy See to delineate the pastoral care of migrants globally and systematically, from both the historical and canonical points of view. In that document, Pius XII tried to mitigate the territorial principle rigidly in place in the Pio-Benedictine Code, by giving a series of competencies to the Consistorial Congregation and establishing a series of offices—both at the national and local levels—thus laying the groundwork for a pastoral organization—still partially in force today—to provide people on the move the spiritual care more fitting to their circumstances. For example, in 1952 he established the Higher Council for Emigration within the aforementioned Sacred Congregation. In the same year, the Apostolatus Maris was established on behalf of seafarers in the same dicastery. Finally, in 1958 he gave the same dicastery the responsibility for providing spiritual assistance to the faithful with specific duties and activities on board planes as well as to passengers travelling by air, establishing what was called the Apostolatus Coeli or Aëris.

C. The Era of Vatican II: Paul VI’s Erga migratorum cura
and the Instruction Nemo est (1969).

The Second Vatican Council brought great innovations as regards the pastoral principles in favor of migrants: (1) by explicitly declaring the responsibility of the pastors towards those faithful who may have difficulty in receiving the ordinary pastoral care provided by the local churches; # (2) by introducing new criteria for ecclesiastical organization, other than the strictly territorial one; and (3) by offering a new vision of the People of God and the constitutional situation of its members, more specifically the so-called fundamental rights and duties of the faithful. We shall deal more at length with this matter further on.
In 1969, Pope Paul VI issued the Motu Proprio Pastoralis migratorum cura and authorized the subsequent Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura (sometimes cited by its opening words Nemo est), aimed at adapting the dispositions of the Pius XII’s Exsul Familia to the new ecclesiological principles of Vatican II.#
On 19 March 1970, with the Motu Proprio Apostolicae Caritatis, Pope Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, with the task of studying and providing pastoral care to “people on the move” such as: migrants, exiles, refugees, displaced people, fishermen and seafarers, air travellers, road transport workers, nomads, circus people, fairground workers, pilgrims and tourists, as well as those categories of people who, for various reasons, are involved in human mobility, such as students abroad, and operators and technicians engaged in large projects or scientific research at the international level who are obliged to move from one country to another.
Still in the pontificate of Paul VI, the aforementioned Commission issued a long exhortative document—entitled Church and Human Mobility—to the Episcopal Conferences, which made patent the interest of the Holy See to give a Christian response to the phenomenon of human mobility.#

D. Pastoral Care of Migrants in the Third Millennium:
The Instruction Erga migrantes (2004)

Such concern grew during the pontificate of John Paul II, as shown by the creation of a separate dicastery for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people #, the Pope’s discourses in the World Day of Migrants, the new regulation for the apostolate of the sea and other documents. #
Taking into consideration the new migration flows and their characteristics, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People issued on 3.V.2004 the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, which aimed to update the ecclesiastical doctrine and praxis regarding the pastoral care of migration, thirty-five years after the publication of Pope Paul VI’s Motu Proprio Pastoralis migratorum cura and the Congregation for Bishops’ related Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura (Nemo est).
Thus—as stated in the Presentation to the document signed by Card. Stephen Fumio Hamao and Abp. Agostino Marchetto (President and Secretary respectively of the aforementioned dicastery)—“it intends to be an ecclesial response to the new pastoral needs of migrants and lead them towards the transformation of their migration experience not only into an opportunity to grow in Christian life, but also an occasion of new evangelization and mission.”
This summary of the document’s pretension—aside from its avowed aim to update what is laid down in the Instruction Nemo est (1969), which in turn updated the Apost. Const. Exsul Familia (1952), which has hitherto been regarded as the magna carta for the pastoral care of migrants—can very well qualify it as the new magna carta for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people in the Third Millennium.

D. The Philippine Hierarchy’s Response to the Challenge of OFWs:
The Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and
Itinerant People (ECMI) #

In the early 1960s, the Body of Bishops of the Philippines established the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) to meet the needs of the multitude of seafarers in a country composed of 7,100 islands. In 1967, two Episcopal Commissions were created under the recently constituted Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines: the Commission on Immigration and Tourism, and the Commission on the Apostolates of the Sea and Air. These two commissions were subsequently merged in 1972 into one body called Episcopal Commission on Migration and Tourism (ECMT), in order to answer the growing spiritual, pastoral and social needs of migrants and their families.
In 1995, the name of the aforementioned commission was changed to the present Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI). The Commission counts with a Secretariat headed by a Scalabrinian Missionary with the task of coordinating and promoting ECMI’s apostolates and services to overseas Filipinos and their families.
Among the immediate undertakings of the ECMI was the opening of the Center for Overseas Workers (COW) in Quezon City, a non-stock and non-profit organization catering to the needs of OFWs, regardless of religion, race or ethnic background. Soon after, Regional Migration Desks (RMD) were opened—one each for the three geographical regions of the Philippine archipelago: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In 1997 the Asia Migration Desk (AMD) was opened.

II. Principles that should inform the Pastoral Care of Migrants

A. Ecclesiological Principles.

In order to arrive at an adequate proposal for the pastoral care of the OFWs, it is important to begin with some ecclesiological principles. I would like to follow the enumeration of Baura. #
1. Principle of Equality. As c.208 of the Code succinctly states: In virtue of their rebirth in Christ there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality with regard to dignity and the activity whereby all cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ in accord with each one’s own condition and function.
Without overly dwelling on this well-known doctrine of Vatican II, it is important to point out its incidence on the organization of the pastoral work with migrants in general and with the OFWs in particular. In effect, what this principle affirms is that in the Church “there are no inequalities by reason of race or nationality.” # More particularly, in relation to the universal call to holiness, this doctrine would require a maximalist approach when determining the measure or extent of the pastoral means that must be offered to the faithful. As one canonist would say, “in order to organize his life and grow properly in God, the migrant christifidelis requires Church legislation which will ensure that he has all those conditions, structural as well as others, which will allow him to develop his life harmoniously.” #
More direct to the point, what this principle implies is that the OFW should not receive any less pastoral care than either his Catholic countrymen in the Philippines, or the other Catholic faithful in the host Church where he may find himself.
Furthermore, the principle of equality also underscores that all the faithful are called to take an active part in the building up of the Church. Applied to the Catholic OFWs, this means that they should not be viewed as mere passive subjects for the pastoral activity of the Church, but rather as active agents of evangelization. This implies that they have the right to receive not only the means of salvation necessary for their own holiness, but also those which capacitate them to carry out an effective apostolate in their peculiar environment.

2. The Principle of Territoriality vs. the Catholicity of the Particular Church and the Universality of the Priesthood. As previously stated, the principle of territoriality had always been a lynchpin in the ecclesiastical organization, even if Vatican II had introduced personal criteria as a way of determining ecclesiastical circumscriptions, which had later found their way into the new Code of Canon Law.
On the other hand, as some canonists have pointed out, the conceptual category of territory cannot be understood in an exclusive, hermetically-sealed way. In fact, the Code does not use this criterion in such a strict manner.# The reason for this is not only the practicality of admitting non-territorial—i.e., personal—criteria for determining ecclesiastical circumscriptions, but also the need of understanding the criterion of territoriality from the point of view of communion. The territorial delimitation of the power of jurisdiction should admit a wider vision of pastoral responsibility, which tends to benefit all the faithful in need and which fosters the collaboration between the different ecclesiastical circumscriptions.
Ultimately then, the criteria for delimiting ecclesiastical jurisdiction—whether territorial or personal—should be interpreted in the light of a higher theological principle, which is the universality of the episcopate # and the priesthood. #
The application of this doctrine to the specific case of the pastoral care of migrants is far-reaching. Among other consequences, we can underscore the pastoral responsibility of the Church of origin. In effect, overemphasizing territoriality would tend to concentrate responsibility on the host Church—which would have to receive, accommodate and attend to the immigrants—without saying much of the responsibility of the Church of origin. In contrast, if one starts with the principle of the universality of the priesthood and the catholicity of the Particular Church, one immediately realizes that the Church of origin cannot be indifferent towards the faithful who emigrate, whether temporarily or permanently. Again applying this to our case, the Philippine Catholic hierarchy—whether individually or collectively—cannot really disregard their primary responsibility to provide adequate pastoral care to the Filipino OFWs wherever they are deployed.

3. The Juridic Obligatority of the Pastoral Care for Migrants. The Second Vatican Council exhorted the bishops to have “a special concern for those faithful, who—due to their condition of life—cannot adequately enjoy the ordinary pastoral care of the pastors or may be totally deprived of it, like many emigrants, exiles and refugees, seafarers and flyers, nomads, etc. Let them foster fitting pastoral methods in order to help the spiritual life of those who temporarily transfer to other places during vacations.” #
It is important to dwell a bit more on this passage of Vatican II, which constitutes the very foundation and hermeneutic key for a correct understanding of the pastoral organization for the OFWs. In effect, the literal tenor of the above-quoted text might suggest that the so-called “special concern” for migrants is due to an obligation of charity but not of justice. One might even think, based on a superficial understanding of the principle of equality, that the migrants—as a distinct group—should not have any claim to a “special” pastoral care, different from the other faithful who are their equals.
In Exsul Familia, Pius XII already laid down—briefly but clearly—the foundation for the juridic obligation of offering a peculiar pastoral attention to the emigrants.# Now Erga migrantes makes this more explicit:
Ҥ1. To the right of the faithful to receive the help that derives from the spiritual wealth of the Church, especially the Word of God and the sacraments (CIC, c.213; CCEO, c.16), there is a corresponding duty on the part of the pastors to provide such help, in particular to migrants, in view of their particular condition of life.
“§3. Moreover, especially when groups of immigrants are numerous, the Churches of their origin have the responsibility of cooperating with the Churches of arrival to facilitate efficacious and suitable pastoral assistance.” #
In effect, all the faithful have the right to receive spiritual assistance from the sacred Pastors to the extent that these can reasonably administer them. Hence, those who—through no fault of theirs, or simply because they exercise the Church-recognized human right to emigrate #—find themselves in a situation such that, in order to receive the same spiritual help that the other faithful in the territory receive, the Pastors would need to act in a special way, have a strict right that the Hierarchy makes the necessary arrangements, different from what is ordinary, so as to provide them the means of salvation that befits them.
In brief, the Filipino migrant workers enjoy the same right as the other faithful to the salvific means of the Church—i.e., the Word of God and the Sacraments. What is peculiar or special is the way that these would be delivered to them. Hence, the special pastoral care due to the OFWs does not constitute a work of mercy corresponding to a situation of need, but rather constitutes a specific modality of the fundamental right of the baptized to receive the means of salvation from the sacred Pastors.

4. The Nature of Ecclesiastical Pastoral Care. Before going into the very core of this discussion, we need to make one more precision which might appear superfluous but nevertheless should not be taken for granted: the nature of pastoral care. In a strict and proper sense, the attribute pastoral refers in general both to the potestas docendi et sanctificandi, and to the potestas regendi. More concretely, it refers to the specific activity and means of the Church and which in themselves build it up.# This activity consists essentially in the exercise of the tria munera Christi—which in practice is translated principally in the delivery of the means of salvation, especially the Word of God and the Sacraments. It, therefore, typically belongs to the pastors—i.e., the hierarchy: principally to the Bishops in communion with the Pope, but secondarily also to the priests as collaborators of the Bishops and to the deacons as helpers of the priests. #
Thus, it would be a serious impoverishment of the figure of the priest and of the Church itself were their mission to be reduced to assuring the physical well-being of the faithful. This in no way denies either the convenience or usefulness of some laudable works for the material well-being of OFWs and their families, carried out by ecclesiastical organizations with the support of the Hierarchy. In some cases, these may even be necessary in order to make up for the failure of the civil authorities. However, there is a danger that the urgency of the material needs of the OFWs might lead towards a tendency—already observed, unfortunately—of substituting on the one hand the genuine pastoral care with social works of beneficence, and on the other hand confusing the priestly mission of the clergy with what is incumbent upon the laity as such—e.g., works of charity and mercy towards their fellowmen.

B. Organizational Parameters.

Keeping in mind the aforementioned ecclesiological principles, we can zero in on the organization of the pastoral care of the Filipino migrant workers. But before that, we can briefly discuss the desired characteristics of such a pastoral care. We can follow the formula proposed by Sanchis: (1) specialization, (2) ministerial availability, (3) personal jurisdiction, (4) organizational elasticity, and (5) service.# In fact, the different measures provided for in the Instruction Erga migrantes respond to these principles. Perhaps we can just add a novel contribution of this Instruction to the aforementioned formula: (6) empowerment of the laity.

1. Specialization. It is common in the magisterial and legislative documents of the Church and among canonists to qualify the pastoral care for migrants as specialized, to contrast it with the ordinary pastoral care provided by the secular jurisdictional structures.# I think we need to understand properly what we mean by specialized. In effect, specialized here is tantamount to extraordinary—not in the sense of its being more or less than the ordinary pastoral care, but rather in its having a specialized mode of delivery. Indeed, the objective content of the pastoral care of migrants should neither be more nor less than what the other faithful receive (principle of equality), but rather delivered in a specialized, peculiar or extraordinary way, because of the special situation of the migrant.
The need for specialization is at the very foundation of all the efforts to organize the pastoral care of migrants. The justification for this specialized pastoral care for migrants is rooted in the very situation of the person who is outside his own country or his own ethnic community, who—in words of De Paolis—is in a sense disoriented. The migrant in general either does not speak the language of his host country or does not know it sufficiently. In any case, he finds himself outside the cultural milieu of the local population in the midst of which he has to live and work. Relating with the parish priest and the local Catholic community is often difficult if not altogether impossible.#
As can be expected—Exsul Familia already pointed this out and various authors consequently reiterated it—the best pastoral specialization would consist in entrusting groups of migrants to priests of the same nationality.# Applied to the OFWs, this simply means entrusting them to Filipino priests.

2. Ministerial Availability. The aforementioned manifestation of specialization implies another desirable characteristic for the organization of the pastoral care of migrants—i.e., a spirit of availability on the part of the sacred ministers for such pastoral assignments. Definitely this does not imply a juridic duty of the sacred minister (in the sense that the priest can be obliged to emigrate), but it rather implies a certain attitude on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in the Church of origin (since they share in the responsibility to care for the emigrants) which fosters this availability, together with the obligation on the part of the Bishop to facilitate matters for those priests who are disposed to accompany the emigrants.
Again, applying this to the OFWs, this simply means that the different dioceses in the Philippines should be generous in allowing those members of their respective clergy, who may feel themselves so inclined, to minister to the pastoral needs of the Filipino migrant workers in their respective places of deployment.
Definitely, the actual canonical norms regarding the mobility of the clergy, their freedom to opt for adscription in a given ecclesiastical circumscription (other than that of their incardination), and even the possibility of changing their incardination all facilitate the practical application of this principle.#

3. Personal and Cumulative Jurisdiction. Closely related to the need of fitting the pastoral structures to the spiritual needs of the migrants is the principle of personality (vs. territoriality) in the determination of jurisdiction. Aside from the aforementioned need to properly understand the territorial criterion, we have to take into account as well that it might sometimes be necessary to delineate pastoral jurisdiction along personal criteria—e.g., of language or nationality. This in fact is what happens with the migrants of a given national provenance, like the OFWs.
Such pastoral ministry by a priest of the same nation or language as the migrants, aside from that which in principle should be provided by the territorial ecclesiastical circumscription in which they are, implies that a given faithful (migrant) would be simultaneously under the effective jurisdiction of two different pastors regarding the same matters. This would require coordination between the pastors involved. Hence, the jurisdiction of chaplains for migrants has also been qualified as cumulative with that of the territorial parish priest. In other words, even if a given migrant faithful may be under two different pastors—the migrant chaplain and the local parish priest—the pastoral care which these two ministers provide do not effectively overlap, but rather compliment each other to complete what should have been the ordinary pastoral care of any faithful.

4. Organizational Elasticity. There are no unique pastoral solutions or absolute panaceas for the organization of the pastoral care of emigrants. Everything will depend on the concrete needs and actual resources available. In this regard, the principle of organizational elasticity should be kept in mind. Perhaps it was this that Paul VI alluded to when he affirmed that to the present (human) mobility should respond the pastoral mobility of the Church. # In any case, this principle in no way proposes a specific solution; on the contrary what it militates against is the exclusion of any possibility, adjusting it to the pastoral necessities. #
Closely related to the notion of organizational elasticity is the temporary character of the pastoral care of migrants: on the one hand, because it is needed only while the ordinary pastoral care, provided by the territorial ecclesiastical circumscription (the parish), remains insufficient or absent; and on the other hand, because the goal is ultimately for the migrant to get assimilated to the local church in his new place. Again, in the case of the 2.2 million OFWs under the present consideration, full integration is usually out of the question—either because there is no local church or such is shorthanded, or simply because the OFWs themselves are really there only for a limited span of time.

5. Principle of Service. Underpinning all the aforementioned principles is the most basic of pastoral principle, which gives the ministerial priesthood its name: service. In effect, the clear consciousness of this principle by the Pastors—following the Good Shepherd, who had declared non veni ministrari sed ministrare—is what should enable them to effectively put into practice the other criteria in order to fully satisfy the fundamental rights of the migrants. It is neither a matter of mere moral value, nor much less of pure rhetoric; on the contrary, stemming from the foundational will of Christ, this principle has important juridic consequences. # In fact, it can be said that this principle constitutes a hermeneutic key for the proper understanding of all the other principles present in the doctrinal and normative texts regarding the pastoral care of migrants.

6. Empowerment of the Laity. Finally, as a unique contribution of the recent Erga migrantes, we can point out the recognition of the active role that the laity is called to take in the pastoral care of migrants. Thus, in Art.2 of Chapter 1: The Lay Faithful, it states: “§1.The faithful who decide to live with another people should strive to (…) contribute to its common good and to spread the faith especially by the example of Christian life.” Then “§2. The lay faithful who are culturally better prepared and spiritually more available should furthermore be urged and trained to take on a specific service as pastoral workers in close collaboration with the chaplains/missionaries.” # This indeed is a novelty in the whole doctrine and canonical regulation of this phenomenon in that, for the first time, there is a call for the real empowerment of the lay migrants—to “be urged and trained”—to take an active part in the pastoral care of migrants.
The application of this principle to the case of the OFWs can lead to quite interesting consequences, especially when we bear in mind the unique situation of the Church in the Philippine, where quite a high percentage of the laity are in fact involved in many lay movements and covenanted communities (e.g., Couples for Christ, Christian Family Movement and El Shaddai to name a few).
In effect, the evangelizing potential of the hundreds and perhaps thousands of OFWs who are already members of covenanted communities can be better harnessed if properly nourished and directed by a unified hierarchical ministry. Working closely with the migrant chaplains, they can be effective leaven for the millions of OFWs—their equals—who in turn can be the bearers of the Gospel message to the different peoples in whose midst they find themselves. Perhaps it was this intuition that underpinned the motto of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People during the Jubilee for Migrants in June 2000: Filipinos everywhere… Know your faith… Live your faith … Share your faith. #

III. A Survey of Current Institutions & Jurisdictional Structures

for the Pastoral Care of Filipino Migrant Workers

by the Philippine Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.

After all the previous considerations, we are ready to understand better the actual provisions of Canon Law—most recently resumed in Part II: Juridical Pastoral Guidelines, of the Instruction Erga migrantes of 2004—as regards the pastoral care of migrants, applicable to our present study as we delimited it—i.e., the pastoral care of the 2.2 million OFWs that can be carried out either unilaterally by the Philippine Hierarchy (or at most with the recognition of the Holy See) or by the Apostolic See, with little dependence on a host Church which may either be non-existent or hardly capable of collaborating in the pastoral care of Filipino migrant workers in those areas where they are presently deployed.

A. Chaplains/Missionaries for Migrants.

The original figure to provide pastoral attention to migrants were individual priests, who were simply denominated chaplains or missionaries for migrants. They could either be secular or religious, and are treated in Erga migrantes, Part II as follows.

Art.4: [Notion of Chaplains/Missionaries for Migrants]
§1. Presbyters who have been given the mandate by the competent ecclesiastical authority to provide spiritual assistance in a stable way to migrants of the same language or nation, or belonging to the same Church sui iuris, are called chaplains/missionaries for migrants; in virtue of their office they are endowed with the faculties described in c.566,§1 of the CIC.#
§2. This office should be conferred on a presbyter who has been well prepared by a suitable period of formation and who for reasons of virtue, culture and knowledge of the language and other moral and spiritual gifts, demonstrates that he is a suitable person for this particular and difficult task.

Art.5 [Missio canonica of chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. To those presbyters who wish to devote themselves to the spiritual assistance of migrants, the diocesan or eparchial bishop should give authorization to do so if he considers them suited to this mission, in accordance with what is laid down in CIC, c.271 and CCEO, cc.361-362 and in these present juridical pastoral regulations.#
§2. Presbyters, who have obtained due permission as explained in the preceding paragraph, should make themselves available to the Episcopal Conference ad quam, furnished with the relevant document granted to them by their own diocesan or eparchial bishop and their own Episcopal Conference, or by the competent hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches. The Episcopal Conference ad quam will then ensure that these presbyters are entrusted to the diocesan or eparchial bishop or to the bishops of the dioceses or eparchies concerned, who will appoint them chaplains/missionaries to the migrants.
§3. As far as religious presbyters who dedicate themselves to assisting migrants are concerned, the specific norms contained in Chapter III have to be applied.

One must bear in mind that Christ “convoked” (that’s what the word ecclesia means) his Church by calling the Apostles and giving them the sacra potestas to be the Pastors of his flock. The Church exists wherever the relationship of Pastor-faithful exists. In fact, the organization of the Church comes about as the development of the interplay of the ministerial priesthood (of the Pastors helped by their presbyterium) on the one hand, and of the royal priesthood of the laity (the rest of the faithful) on the other. The ministerial priesthood of the Pastor and his presbyterium makes possible and nourishes the royal priesthood of the rest of the faithful—much like the impulses from the brain are carried by the nerves to enliven the rest of the body, or the blood from the heart is carried by the arteries and capillaries to give life to the whole body.
Applied to the case of the OFWs, their life as Church depends on their being connected to the Hierarchy. This normally follows territorial criteria—i.e., the faithful who fall within the territorial ecclesiastical circumscription are subjects of that circumscription. Since the OFWs are outside the territorial circumscription of the Philippine Hierarchy, the Philippine bishops can only authorize individual priests to go as chaplains/missionaries. The specific missio canonica, which give rise to the juridic relationship of sacred minister-faithful, will have to be expedited by the host Church where the OFWs are deployed. In other words, it is the host Church which will have to specifically assign the migrant chaplains to take charge of a specific flock of migrants—convoked into any of several modalities (vid infra). Unfortunately, such host Church is either non-existent where the OFWs are, or is hardly able to attend to the OFWs. In such cases, the OFWs are literally sheep without shepherd.

Art. 18 [Selection of chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. The diocesan or eparchial bishops of the countries a quibus shall remind parish priests of their serious duty to provide for all the faithful a religious formation such that, if the case may be, they will be able to face the difficulties connected with their departure for emigration.
§2. The diocesan or eparchial bishops of the places a quibus shall moreover take it upon themselves to seek out diocesan/eparchial presbyters who are suited for pastoral care with emigrants, and they shall not neglect to enter into close relations with the Episcopal Conference or the corresponding hierarchical structure of the Eastern Catholic Church of the nation ad quam in order to help in pastoral work.
§3. Even in dioceses/eparchies or regions where it is not immediately necessary for seminarians to specialize in the field of migration, the problems of human mobility should be taken more and more into account in the teaching of theology, especially pastoral theology.

As we noted earlier, ministerial availability is one of the notes that should characterize the pastoral care provided to migrants. The fact that there are only six Filipino chaplains caring for 1.5 million OFWs in the Middle East—compared to about 50 Filipino chaplains spread out to all the other countries where there are about 3.5 million OFWs—seem to imply a tendency (either by preference or by state restrictions) for Filipino chaplains to go to precisely those countries where stable territorial ecclesiastical structures exist, rather than to those places (e.g. the Middle East) where such structures do not exist or are poorly able to attend to the OFWs.
Without going to their motivations, one cannot help but commiserate with them: indeed, without the proper ecclesiastical structures to take care of the chaplains as well, even the best-intentioned Filipino priest who might want to volunteer to work with the OFWs would be hard-pressed to assure his own perseverance. That problem had been recognized since the middle ages, giving rise to the institution of incardination, precisely to avoid the phenomenon of acephalous (or freelance) clergy who are not exempt from the weaknesses of fallen human nature. This problem—applied to the chaplains for migrants—is a very serious one.

B. Modalities of Pastoral Care in the Host Church.

Art.6 [Personal Parish]
§1. When it is deemed necessary to erect a personal parish, in view of the number of migrants or the opportuneness of providing them with special pastoral care corresponding to their needs, in doing so the diocesan or eparchial bishop shall clearly establish the confines of this parish and the rules regarding the parish books. Whenever the possibility exists, it should be kept in mind that the migrants are free to choose whether they wish to belong to the territorial parish where they are living or to the personal parish.
§2. The presbyter entrusted with a personal parish for migrants enjoys the faculties and obligations of a parish priest; what is stated here about chaplains/missionaries for migrants applies to him unless the nature of things requires otherwise.

As far as the host Churches are concerned, perhaps the structure of greatest practical importance is the personal parish, envisioned by c.518 of the CIC in the following terms: As a general rule, a parish is to be territorial, that is, it is to embrace all Christ’s faithful of a given territory. Where it is useful however, personal parishes are to be established, determined by reason of the rite, language or nationality of the faithful of a certain territory, or on some other basis.
It is interesting to note that the tenor of the canon is quite imperative: personal parishes are to be established, the only condition being the prior judgment by the competent authority—i.e., the Local Ordinary—of its usefulness. Such usefulness, in turn, is determined by the criteria contained in the sources of the canon itself—i.e., the Constitution Exsul Familia, Vatican II and the Instruction Nemo est—and the basic principle that constantly emerges from these documents is that migrants must be offered the same pastoral care which is given to the native population, through the ministry of parish priests. In cases where the territorial parish is unable to carry out this task, recourse must be made to the personal parish.

Art.7 [Missio cum cura animarum]

§1. The diocesan or eparchial bishop may also erect a missio cum cura animarum in the territory of one or more[territorial] parishes, clearly defining its terms of reference. It may or may not be annexed to a territorial parish.
§2. The chaplain entrusted with a missio cum cura animarum, always observing due distinctions, is juridically equivalent to a parish priest and performs his functions together with the local parish priest. He likewise has the faculty to assist at the celebration of a marriage when one of the spouses is a migrant belonging to his mission.
§4. Presbyters assigned as coadjutors to a chaplain who has been entrusted with a missio cum cura animarum have, always observing due distinctions, the same tasks and faculties as parochial vicars.
§5. If circumstances render it opportune, a missio cum cura animarum, erected in the territory of one or more parishes, may be annexed to a territorial parish, especially when the latter is entrusted to members of the same institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life as those who are caring for the spiritual assistance of the migrants.

Together with the personal parish, perhaps the most common structure for the pastoral care of migrants is the mission with care of souls.# This was already dealt with—although not specifically named—in Exsul Familia, as a structure to provide pastoral care to migrants of the same language or nationality, entrusted to a missionary priest of that same language or nationality, with powers equivalent to a parish priest (even having parochial registries): a parochial power which is personal and cumulative with that of the territorial parish priest. #
However, it is the Instruction De Pastorali Migratorum Cura, which explicitly employs the term mission with care of souls, by providing for such form of assistance where a particular group of faithful is in need of a specific pastoral care. It is interesting to note that the Latin text uses the expression peculiares hominum coetus, which—as a noted canonist had pointed out—indicates less than a stable community of faithful, but rather a transitory group.# The peculiarity of the pastoral care stems from the fact that the group as such enjoys a certain stability (insofar as it remains for a certain time in the same place), but may be varied insofar as the persons composing it may be continually changing (e.g., contractual migrant workers). Such a group is thus provided with a pastoral care similar to that of a parish (cura animarum ordinaria), but which is not parochial (since it does not involve a stably composed group).

C. Institutes of Consecrated Life.

Historically, the clerics best capacitated to accompany emigrants were precisely members of institutes of consecrated life, given the existence of their own organizational and spiritual support structure to sustain them in such arduous assignment. One must not forget—as pointed out earlier—that if the emigrants need pastoral care, the chaplains/missionaries also need such spiritual assistance. It is no wonder then that Erga migrantes positively appraised the role played by the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in their specific contribution towards the pastoral care of migrants, regulating them in Part II: Juridical Pastoral Guidelines as follows:

Art. 12 [Positive appraisal of the work done by religious.]
§1. All institutes, in which religious of various nations are often present, can make their contribution to assistance for migrants. Ecclesiastical authorities should therefore encourage in particular the work done by those who, under the seal of religious vows, have the apostolate to migrants as their own specific goal or who have acquired appreciable experience in that field.
§2. The help offered by women’s religious institutes to the apostolate among migrants should also be appreciated and valued. The diocesan or eparchial bishop shall therefore ensure that these institutes, with full respect for their own rules and bearing in mind their obligations and their charism, lack neither the spiritual assistance nor the material means necessary for them to carry out their mission.

A good percentage of the migrant chaplains ministering to OFWs are in fact members of institutes of consecrated life. In the Middle East, for example, more than half of the Filipino migrant chaplains are religious, helped by a handful of religious nuns.

Art. 13 [Missio canonica of religious chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. In general whenever a diocesan or eparchial bishop intends to entrust the care of migrants to a religious institute, with due respect for the customary canonical norms, he will draw up a written agreement with the superior of that institute. If more than one diocese or eparchy is involved, the agreement must be signed by every diocesan or eparchial bishop. The role of co-ordinating these initiatives belongs to the competent commission of the Episcopal Conference or the corresponding hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
§2. If the pastoral care of migrants is entrusted to an individual religious, it is always necessary first to obtain the consent of his superior and in this case too to draw up the relative agreement in writing; in other words, taking into consideration due distinctions, the procedure is the same as that laid down in Art. 5 for diocesan presbyters.

Again we have to point out that following this formula, the Philippine Hierarchy can only authorize members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life to go and minister to the OFWs wherever they are deployed. The specific missio canonica, by which the juridic relationship of sacred minister-OFW arises, will have to be expedited by the host Church—which, we should not forget our assumption, is either non-existent or hardly able to attend to the OFWs.

D. Role of the Episcopal Conference (of origin):
The Commission on Migration & the Director for Migration.

In order to foster and coordinate the work of chaplains/missionaries, Erga migrantes provided for the opportune organisms under a given Episcopal Conference, in Part II, Chapter V as follows:
Art. 19
§1. In countries to which migrants go, or which they leave, in larger numbers, the Episcopal Conferences and the competent hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches shall set up a special national commission for migration. It will have its secretary, who in general will take on the office of national director for migration. It is very opportune that religious should be present on this commission as experts, especially those working for the spiritual assistance of migrants, as well as lay faithful qualified in this matter.

In the Philippines, the Catholic Bishops Conference has had a stable Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People for many years—presently headed by a Diocesan Bishop and with a Scalabrinian priest as Secretary—with a well thought-out structure and program especially directed to the migrants and their families scattered throughout the Philippines. They have even published a 278-pages Handbook for the conduct of such program.# Even if a lot still needs to be done to make such a program operative throughout the Philippines, there is at least a blueprint to be followed for a work in progress.
The problem lies in the delivery of such a program to the OFWs, who—more than the families they have left behind in the Philippines, who are in the relative security of a vibrant Church in a predominantly Catholic country—are like sheep without a shepherd in the wilderness of a foreign and for the most part non-Catholic environment.

E. Lay Associations.

As previously pointed out, the Philippines enjoys a particular advantage in the reality of a vibrant ecclesial involvement of the laity. This affirmation is easily verified by the simple observation of the proliferation of lay associations and movements, including so-called covenanted communities, in which the members commit themselves to varying degrees of dedication to works of zeal and apostolate.
This fact can be made to dovetail with the provision of Erga migrantes, Part II as follows:

Art. 3
§1. The faithful who decide to live with another people should strive to esteem the cultural patrimony of the nation that welcomes them, to contribute to its common good and to spread the faith especially by the example of Christian life.
§3. While maintaining the right of migrants to have their own associations, at the same time everything should be done to facilitate their participation in local associations.
§4. The lay faithful who are culturally better prepared and spiritually more available should furthermore be urged and trained to take on a specific service as pastoral workers in close collaboration with the chaplains/missionaries.

In what affects the Filipino migrant workers, it would not be difficult to envision the collaboration of the Philippine Hierarchy with these lay associations—especially the covenanted communities—in order to orient their members who are OFWs to collaborate more effectively with the chaplains/missionaries for migrants, all in favor of the pastoral care of the OFWs in their particular places of deployment.
In fact, this is already happening to a certain extent, especially with the Couples for Christ. However, this association of faithful at present is most active precisely in those countries where the local Churches are also active. One can only hope for a time when this great mass of eager laymen and laywomen can be fully harnessed—through an organic cooperation with Filipino migrant chaplains—to provide pastoral care for the great masses of OFWs in places—like the Middle East—where there is hardly a local Church to speak of.

F. Personal Prelatures.

At this point, it is timely to make an important observation regarding all the institutions we have surveyed, relevant to the problem of setting up an effective organization of the pastoral care of OFWs. It is simply that all of them, insofar as they are initiatives from the Philippines, are nevertheless all non-hierarchical in nature. The reason is equally simple: because in none of them has the principle of personal jurisdiction been invoked, such that in all of them, the OFWs deployed in foreign lands are neither hierarchically connected with a territorial ecclesiastical circumscription in their place of deployment (either because such a host Church doesn’t exist where they are, or the language and cultural barrier prevents their being integrated to such Church at the moment), nor with their Church of origin in the Philippines (simply because they are not in Philippine territory at the moment).
Now then, no matter how zealous the chaplains/missionaries for migrants may be, or how dedicated to the apostolate with the OFWs the lay members of the covenanted communities might be, it would not suffice for the full delivery of the Church’s spiritual wealth (the Word of God and the sacraments) necessary for the OFWs to fully actualize their universal vocation to holiness. For that to happen, the hierarchical relationship sacred minister-faithful must be in place. As stated earlier, for the Church to effectively exist, the interplay between the ministerial priesthood of the clerics (ultimately stemming from the sacra potestas invested on the sacred Pastors because of apostolic succession) and the royal priesthood of the rest of the faithful must exist.
If the Filipino migrant workers are indeed to enjoy the means of salvation, in equal terms with the rest of the Catholic faithful in the Philippines, they must form part of an ecclesiastical circumscription, in much the same way as the other Filipino Catholics back home do. The only way they can do that, given the difficulty of their forming part of a territorial ecclesiastical circumscription where they are (either because such does not exist or cultural differences make such inclusion impractical), is for them to form part of a personal (not territorial) ecclesiastical circumscription set up specifically for them, upon the initiative of the Philippine Hierarchy.
In this respect, special mention has to be made of the Personal Prelature, the paradigm of the personal (non-territorial) jurisdiction in the Code of Canon Law, as pointed out by the Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura and by numerous authors. #
Even a cursory reading of the canons of Book II, Title IV: Personal Prelatures of the Code of Canon Law—what may be regarded as the Organic Law for Personal Prelatures—cannot but reveal the fittingness of this jurisdictional figure to the phenomenon of which we are presently concerned.

Can. 294. Personal prelatures may be established by the Apostolic See after consultation with the Episcopal Conferences concerned. They are composed of deacons and priests of the secular clergy. Their purpose is to promote an appropriate distribution of priests, or to carry out special pastoral or missionary enterprises in different regions or for different social groups.
In the case of the OFWs, the Holy See—upon consultation with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (which could even initiate the whole process) and the competent Episcopal Conferences where the OFWs are deployed—can erect a Personal Prelature for OFWs. It can be composed of Filipino clergy—initially from the different Philippine dioceses, especially those from which the OFWs concerned come, and even from religious orders—either by incardination (in the case of secular clergy) or by adscription.

Can. 295 §1 A personal prelature is governed by statutes laid down by the Apostolic See. It is presided over by a Prelate as its proper Ordinary. He has the right to establish a national or an international seminary, and to incardinate students and promote them to orders with the title of service of the prelature.
An important characteristic of the Personal Prelature is its great flexibility—each one having its own set of statutes given by the Holy See—precisely so that they can attain the ends for which they were intended wherever they are set up. As De Paolis so succinctly expressed, the innovative broadening of views which the institution embodies must be stressed, and the possibilities it holds for the pastoral care of human mobility. #
Perhaps the most important element of the Personal Prelature—as provider of the peculiar pastoral care to the OFWs—is having its proper Prelate, who with the sacra potestas given by Law, will be able to adequately provide the appropriate pastoral care needed by the OFWs. As such, the pastoral care that shall be given to the OFWs shall not be a matter of personal or grassroots initiative anymore—either by missionary clerics or zealous laypersons—but shall be the hierarchical exercise of the tria munera Christi.
Even if initially the Personal Prelature for OFWs would most probably have to rely on volunteer clergy from the different particular Churches from which most of the OFWs come, there is no reason why in time, with the maturity of the Personal Prelature for OFWs, it could not establish its own seminary, to form its proper clergy imbued with the priestly spirit fitted for the itinerant flock to which they have to minister.

Can.295, §2 The Prelate must provide both for the spiritual formation of those who are ordained with this title, and for their becoming support.
As more than one canonist have pointed out, the very chaplains themselves ministering to the migrants are in dire need of pastoral care too, qualifying this as “a problem of particular gravity and importance” and their situation as “particularly delicate.”# In fact, the experience has not been good as regards clerics, from different particular Churches in the Philippines, who had volunteered to work with OFWs. Bereft of adequate pastoral care—either from their original Church of origin or from their new host Church, the former because they are supposed to be on loan to the latter, and the latter because of cultural differences or simply because of lack of means—these migrant chaplains oftentimes also fall prey to the same dangers that the OFWs themselves are subjected to.
By having a proper Prelate, with responsibilities and rights clearly defined, the chaplains for migrants would be better provided for, spiritually and materially.

Can. 296 Lay people can dedicate themselves to the apostolic work of a personal prelature by way of agreements made with the prelature. The manner of this organic cooperation and the principal obligations and rights associated with it, are to be duly defined in the statutes.
Reading this canon, one cannot help but think of the pastoral potentials of those OFWs—some of whom are members of covenanted communities—presently trying to do apostolate with their fellow OFWs. One can only imagine how much more they could do if they were organically incorporated to a personal prelature specifically erected for them. Instead of just being a grassroots phenomenon, these zealous laymen and laywomen would in fact be sharing in the hierarchical mandate and the corresponding means that the personal prelature would enjoy.
Thus, in close relation with the clergy of the Prelature, they would be effective leaven, not only for their fellow OFWs, but even for the greater mass of people in their places of deployment. As the head of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People had affirmed, “indeed, destination countries offer opportunities to Filipino migrants, but the Filipinos and Filipinas, too , have a precious contribution to their societies…. the very faith that the Philippines received half a millennium ago.” #

Can. 297 The statutes are likewise to define the relationships of the prelature with the local Ordinaries in whose particular Churches the prelature, with the prior consent of the diocesan Bishop, exercises or wishes to exercise its pastoral or missionary activity.
A noteworthy quality of this hierarchical circumscription is its capacity to be adapted to the pastoral needs of the OFWs, since the specific characteristics and the sphere of activity of a personal prelature (whether within the territory of an Episcopal conference or in a larger geographical extension) are fixed in the specific act of its erection and the statutes given to it by the Holy See (c.295, §1).
For example, a distinction might be made between the kind of work the Personal Prelature for OFWs might do in those areas where a stable and mature territorial ecclesiastical circumscription already exists, capable of adequately providing the pastoral care for the OFWs; and in those areas where such territorial ecclesiastical circumscription either does not exist or is hardly capable of adequately taking care of the OFWs. In the former (e.g., U.S., Canada, Australia and most countries of western Europe), perhaps the role of the Personal Prelature for OFWs would be purely one of facilitating the assimilation of the OFWs into the local Church. In the latter, however, the role of the personal prelature would really be to provide the full range of ordinary pastoral care—given in a specialized manner—for the Filipino migrant workers.
The very nature of the personal prelature—as defined by the Code of Canon Law—permits a great range of flexibility in this regard.
In fact this would not be a totally original idea. As mentioned above, as early as 1918, the Holy See had appointed for the pastoral care of refugees in Italy, “a Prelate who will take the place of the proper and immediate Ordinary for all the said priests and seminarians in whatever place or diocese they may be residing […]. By these means the Holy See also intends to make better provision for the religious assistance of lay refugees, especially those who find themselves grouped in small centers that require more special care. To this end the said Prelate is given authority to appoint the refugee priests—after consulting, if possible, their proper Ordinaries, and in any case the Bishops of the place where they reside—to tasks of attending to these groups and providing for their spiritual needs.” # At that time—and until the Second Vatican Council opened new avenues based on personal criteria—ecclesiastical jurisdiction was organized along strictly territorial lines. Nevertheless, the urgency of the need to pastorally care for the itinerant flocks of migrants had already led the Holy See to the configuration of what today would be the personal prelature.

G. Military Ordinariates.

Military Ordinariates are an offshoot of the centuries old figure of the Military Vicariates, which were originally erected at different moments mostly during the first half of the 20th Century, standardized by the Instruction Sollemne Semper of 23.IV.1951 (issued by the S.Consistorial Congregation), and finally reconfigured (through a new act of erection) as Military Ordinariates based on the Apostolic Constitution Spirituali Militum curae of 21.IV.1986 by John Paul II. # Regardless of the terminology, one cannot help but recognize the great similarity between the military ordinariate and the personal prelature. As a well-known canonist succinctly puts it, “the fundamental norms of the Apostolic Constitution correspond to the general norms provided by cc.294-297 CIC for personal prelatures: establishment, role of the statutes, configuration of the capital office, role and type of clergy, etc.” “It seems—he in fact concludes—that we are dealing with a peculiar type of personal prelature appropriate for the specific character of military pastoral care.” #

H. Personal Ordinariates for Anglican Communities.

Personal Ordinariates for Anglican Communities are the latest type of ecclesiastical circumscription involving personal jurisdiction to be provided for by the Church. Through the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, of 4.XI.2009, Benedict XVI introduced a canonical model for the establishment of Personal Ordinariates for communities of former Anglicans who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution −and the accompanying Complementary Norms issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the same date−the Ordinariate shall be composed of lay faithful, clerics and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, originally belonging to the Anglican Communion who now wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, or those who receive the Sacraments of Initiation within the jurisdiction of the Ordinariate.

Such Personal Ordinariate shall be entrusted to the pastoral care of an Ordinary appointed by the Roman Pontiff, whose power shall be: (1) ordinary: connected by the law itself to the office entrusted to him by the Roman Pontiff, for both the internal forum and external forum; (2) vicarious: exercised in the name of the Roman Pontiff; (3) personal: exercised over all who belong to the Ordinariate; and (4) cumulative: exercised jointly with that of the local Diocesan Bishop, in those cases provided for in the Complementary Norms of the Constitution. The Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans shall be governed according to the norms of universal law, the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus with its Complementary Norms, as well as any other specific Norms given for each Ordinariate, and shall be subject to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia in accordance with their competencies.
With everything that has been said, I think it is important to point out that─at this point─ we cannot really speak of Personal Ordinariates as a genus of personal ecclesiastical circumscriptions, simply because as of the moment, the legislation has been very specific: it only provides for the Personal Ordinariates for Anglican Communities seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.

Conclusion: Towards a Personal Prelature for OFWs.

After all the foregoing discussion, my conclusion is that the best way to answer the challenge of adequately providing pastoral care to the 2.2 million OFWs all over the world, who are not properly cared for by existing ecclesiastical territorial circumscriptions, is through the erection of one or several Personal Prelatures for Filipino Migrant Workers.
The reason for opting for a personal Prelature, instead of some kind of personal Ordinariate, is two-fold:
First and in the level of principles, because to my mind there is nothing that can be accomplished with a personal ordinariate that cannot be accomplished just as well with a personal prelature. The attentive reader would have realized by now that everything really boils down to the statutes that will be tailored for the personal prelature (or in its case, the personal ordinariate), such that the desired characteristics are laid down clearly.
Second and in a more practical plain, because it is much easier to set up a personal prelature, because a personal prelature is a typical configuration—i.e., typified in the Code of Canon Law—which only has to be applied to the concrete and specific case of OFWs. In contrast, a personal ordinariate is an atypical figure, which would require a more complex legislative act for its setting up. In the two kinds of ordinariates that we have considered above, we have seen that no less than an Apostolic Constitution had been issued.

I agree with Baura that such erection of personal prelatures by the Holy See can in fact arise as a logical development of already existing structures and the re-orientation of others. # In broad strokes, one may envision the following:

  1. The Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (what Erga migrantes refers to as the National Director for Migration) could be appointed as the Prelate of a Personal Prelature for OFWs. If such were not possible—due to the shortage of bishops for the existing particular Churches in the Philippines—any qualified priest, possibly someone who had been working closely with the National Director of Migration, would do. It can be pointed out that the Episcopal consecration is not a requirement for the Prelate of a Personal Prelature (although such is highly desirable). The latter’s elevation to the episcopate could follow eventually.


  1. The existing chaplains/missionaries for OFWs could initially form the presbyterium of this Personal Prelature. Note that there indeed are a number of such priests—both belonging to the secular clergy (from different Philippine dioceses) and of late even a society of apostolic life.# The former can have a choice of being incardinated to the new prelature or just being attached to it, while the latter can simply work in it through the opportune agreements between the Prelate for OFWs and their religious Superiors.


Of course, for the long-term maintenance of its presbyterium, this Prelature will have to set up its own seminary, according to the tenor of c.295, §1.

  1. The laypersons, who hitherto may have formed part of covenanted communities or lay associations especially dedicated to the apostolate with the OFWs, may be invited to form an organic part of the Prelature, according to the tenor of c.296. Of course, other persons may also form an organic part of the Prelature.


These laypersons, in organic collaboration with the Prelature’s presbyterium, would carry out the special pastoral care proper of the Prelature and in favor of their fellow OFWs.

In any case, the other Catholic OFWs may also form part of the people of the Prelature.

  1. The Statutes of the Prelature will have to be drawn up, according to c.297, taking into account all the peculiarities of the pastoral work that it will do with the OFWs.


In places where the host Church has adequate means to minister to the OFWs, the role of the priests of the Prelature for OFWs is one helping the local parishes assimilate the OFWs, working in close collaboration with the parish priests.

In places where the host Church has inadequate means or where there is no host Church, the role of the priests of the Prelature of OFWs would be to provide all the pastoral care that the OFWs need.

Annex 1


As of December 2004

WORLD TOTAL 3,187,586 3,599,257 1,296,972 8,083,815
AFRICA 318 58,369 17,141 75,828
EGYPT 54 2,620 1,420 4,094
EQUATORIAL GUINEA 0 2,569 150 2,719
LIBYA 75 5,440 485 6,000
NIGERIA 18 11,750 586 12,354
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 171 35,990 14,500 50,661
ASIA, East & South 91,901 1,005,609 443,343 1,540,853
BRUNEI 26 21,762 1,700 23,488
HONGKONG 404 194,241 2,700 197,345
JAPAN 83,303 238,522 31,428 353,253
KOREA (South) 4,850 33,285 9,015 47,150
MACAU 56 17,391 1,000 18,447
MALAYSIA 313 52,337 300,000 352,650
SINGAPORE 152 64,337 72,000 136,489
TAIWAN 2,037 154,135 4,500 160,672
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 760 229,599 21,000 251,359
ASIA, West 2,312 1,449,031 112,750 1,564,093
BAHRAIN 64 33,154 3,500 36,718
ISRAEL 104 14,051 23,000 37,155
JORDAN 108 5,885 7,000 12,993
KUWAIT 93 80,196 11,500 91,789
LEBANON 19 28,318 6,100 34,437
OMAN 20 18,941 1,500 20,461
QATAR 13 57,345 1,000 58,358
SAUDI ARABIA 243 976,134 18,000 994,377
UAE 405 185,562 20,000 205,967
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 1,243 49,445 21,150 71,838
EUROPE 174,387 506,997 143,035 824,419
AUSTRIA 22,017 1,956 2,000 25,973
BELGIUM 3,583 3,484 5,533 12,600
FRANCE 1,098 4,866 26,121 32,085
GERMANY 42,882 8,346 4,400 55,628
GREECE 88 17,058 8,000 25,146
ITALY 4,934 85,527 48,000 138,461
NETHERLANDS 10,421 2,920 2,000 15,341
SPAIN 16,332 6,960 2,000 25,292
SWITZERLAND 922 7,025 6,700 14,647
UNITED KINGDOM 52,500 56,341 7,481 116,322
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 19,610 312,514 30,800 362,924





































































Prepared by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas from CFO, DFA, POEA and other sources covering 194 countries / territories.
Permanent – Immigrants or legal permanent residents abroad whose stay does not depend on work contracts.
Temporary – Persons whose stay overseas is employment related, and who are expected to return at the end of their work contracts.
Irregular – Those not properly documented or without valid residence or work permits, or who are overstaying in a foreign country.

Annex 2


[Based on stock estimate of OFs in Annex 2, removing permanent migrants, and discounting countries with adequate ecclesiastical circumscriptions to provide pastoral care to OFWs.] #





WORLD TOTAL 2,906,332 787,927 3,694,259
AFRICA 58,369 17,141 75,510
EGYPT 2,620 1,420 4,040
EQUATORIAL GUINEA 2,569 150 2,719
LIBYA 5,440 485 5,925
NIGERIA 11,750 586 12,336
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 35,990 14,500 50,490
ASIA, East & South 954,933 433,328 1,388,261
BRUNEI 21,762 1,700 23,462
HONGKONG 194,241 2,700 196,941
JAPAN 238,522 31,428 269,950
MALAYSIA 52,337 300,000 352,337
SINGAPORE 64,337 72,000 136,337
TAIWAN 154,135 4,500 158,635
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 229,599 21,000 250,599
ASIA, West 1,449,031 112,750 1,561,781
BAHRAIN 33,154 3,500 36,654
ISRAEL 14,051 23,000 37,051
JORDAN 5,885 7,000 12,885
KUWAIT 80,196 11,500 91,696
LEBANON 28,318 6,100 34,418
OMAN 18,941 1,500 20,441
QATAR 57,345 1,000 58,345
SAUDI ARABIA 976,134 18,000 994,134
UAE 185,562 20,000 205,562
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 49,445 21,150 70,595
AMERICAS / 158,877 196,750 355,627
CNMI 16,753 1,250 18,003
GUAM 1,800 500 2,300
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 140,324 195,000 335,324
OCEANIA 56,120 27,958 84,078
PALAU 3,702 400 4,102
PAPUA NEW GUINEA 5,030 7,339 12,369
OTHERS / UNSPECIFIED 47,388 20,219 67,607
SEABASED WORKERS 229,002 229,002