On March 28, Fordham University honored His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, in a ceremony that highlighted the strong and abiding ties between the University, the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, and the Philippines.

The University awarded a doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa, to Cardinal Tagle, a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People, in a ceremony held in Keating First auditorium on the Rose Hill campus. It was his first official visit to the United States as a cardinal and his first honorary degree from a U.S. university.

“You have lived your life as an example of the very best that Jesuit education seeks to produce,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, to Cardinal Tagle, who attended Fordham’s sister Jesuit institution in the Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila University. “You are a man whose life is marked by competence, conscience, compassion, and deep commitment to the cause of the poor. Although this is your first visit to Fordham, we feel that you are a part of our family and have been so for a very long time.”

In his address, Cardinal Tagle called attention to the worldwide problem of forced migration caused by conflicts, hazards, disasters, or “so-called development projects.”

He cited many statistics on the problem: In 2012 there were 72 million forced migrants worldwide, 3.5 million of whom were stateless, he said. Also, it is estimated that at least 20,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean [Sea] in the past two decades trying to reach Italy, Malta, Spain, and Greece.

“I thought I would risk boring you by giving you the data. It is staggering.” Cardinal Tagle said. “We’re talking of millions of (forcibly) displaced people. The figures cited are not just numbers. They are human beings with faces, lives, stories, destinies.

“The church must lead in viewing migrants and refugees beyond numbers and beyond categorization, towards a recovery of the full human dimension of their condition,” Cardinal Tagle said. “While addressing the causes of forced migration is necessary, we need a fresh perspective on the protection of forced migrants by looking at the human consequences,” along with its social costs [and]the wounds it inflicts on displaced families, he said.

To better understand forced migrants, he said, we should ask the following questions: What are the perils and risks that drove them away from home? What has happened to their lives and dignity during their flight from those risks?

“The migrant, especially the forced migrant, is a traveler, is a person on a journey—tired, thirsty, weary, fearful,” Cardinal Tagle said. “We can help transform their human story from that of a horror story … into one of warm welcome, genuine caring, and the experience of belonging.”

Father McShane noted that the stories of the Philippines and the University have been intertwined for more than a century, as hundreds of Jesuits from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus have served there. Many of them were present at the ceremony, including Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., president emeritus of Fordham, who taught at the College of Arts and Science at the Ateneo de Manila for many years.

Cardinal Tagle accepted the honorary doctorate on behalf of the Filipino people, especially those afflicted by recent natural disasters who “have inspired the world with their lively faith and joyful hope.”

Also at the ceremony, members of the University’s Philippine-American Club presented the cardinal with a check for $5,000 in support of Caritas Manila’s relief work related to Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013.