On we sweep with threshing oar

Previously, we mentioned Pius XII’s 1941 address, La solennità della Pentecoste, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Rerum novarum, as a source for developing a consistent, Catholic understanding of the immigration issues so much in the news lately. We, however, did not mention Pius’s 1952 apostolic constitution (!) on the spiritual care of migrants, Exsul Familia Nazarethana. (Unlike La solennità, an English translation of Exsul Familia is readily available.)

In Exsul Familia, Pius outlines his previous discussions of the right to migrate. In addition to La solennità, he addressed the issue in his 1945 Christmas Eve discourse, Negli ultimi anni, his February 1946 allocution to the newly elevated cardinals, and a 1948 letter to Cincinnati Archbishop John McNicholas. Obviously Exsul Familia is a much longer and much more sustained treatment of the issue of migration. (Though the 1946 allocution certainly addressed the issue at some length, too.)

We admit that we have not memorized all of Pius’s various statements about migrants—though many are collected, helpfully, in Exsul Familia—but it seems to us that he was a pope deeply concerned with the question of migration. Understandably so! His pontificate saw enormous numbers of people displaced by destruction, to say nothing of those who fled when they saw the trajectory of Europe from continent to charnel house. It is entirely reasonable that Pius devoted much thought to migration. It is less reasonable, however, that we seem to have forgotten his teaching on the matter.

Perhaps it’s time to reclaim it.