I Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Migration, Transnationalism and Catholicism

Brothers and Sisters Across Borders: Theological Perspectives on Catholic Transnationalism

Gemma Tulud Cruz

Transnationalism and Catholicism: Introduction

Transnationalism concerns the multi-stranded and cross-border ties of individuals, groups and organizations and their sometimes simultaneous engagement across the borders of national states (Faist et al. 2013, 7). Most religious institutions and the religious movements that grew out of them exhibit dynamism due to their transnational character. In fact, it has been argued that in today’s post-modern age, religious communities have become vital agents in the creation of transnational civil society (Rudolph 1997; Menjivar 1999). This is particularly true in the context of migration where religious participation facilitates the formation and maintenance of transnational ties (Portes et al. 2007).

G.T. Cruz (*)

Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia © The Author(s) 2016

D. Pasura, M.B. Erdal (eds.), Migration, Transnationalism and Catholicism, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58347-5_2

The Catholic Church is the single largest international religious organization in the world and is arguably the oldest globalized institution on earth. As can be seen in its history, its global character and hierarchical as well as international structures it is well-positioned to engage in multistranded and cross-border ties. Its hundreds of religious orders, which have members and missions scattered across the planet, have been heralds of a globalized world for centuries.

While Catholic transnationalism in the context of migration is not new, there are differences that characterize contemporary Catholic migrants’ transnational religious lives as new communication and transportation technologies as well as greater recognition of migrants’ rights and social capital in sending and receiving countries permit more frequent and intimate connections between those who move and those who remain behind. What is new, therefore, is the high intensity of exchanges, the new modes of transacting business or maintaining relationships, and the multiplication of activities that require cross-border travel and contact on a sustained basis. Venezuelan Catholics in Houston, for example, have organized a virtual ministry whereby they form intentional small faith communities that are regularly linked by the internet to the Church in Venezuela. Catholics of Mexican descent in the USA, meanwhile, create links to their homeland by annual visits back home or by the yearly visits to the USA by the parish priest, local bishop, or religious image of devotion from their hometown or region. Deck (2013, 58) maintains that these activities would have been impossible twenty-five years ago.

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