Welcome and dignity for immigrants

Whenever I pass St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I am reminded of the 19th century Catholic immigrants, who helped to build it with the sweat of their brows and whatever they could give of their paltry economic resources.

For them, the Cathedral was more than a magnificent church building. It was a symbol of their right to make a life for themselves and their families in the United States, and of their resistance to the Nativist movement that tried to prevent them from doing so.

The Catholic Church is on the side of the immigrant and that is why it is important for religious educators and others to be knowledgeable on this topic, particularly these days as the Congress considers immigration reform.  This is part of the church’s social teaching.

Here in the United States, the Church’s support for immigration reform is demonstrated in this statement by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, on June 28 during a telephone press conference with the USCCB leadership. Archbishop Gomez commended the U.S. Senate for its passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill and called for the House of Representatives to do likewise.

Pope Francis himself provided a powerful witness in actions and words in his visit yesterday (Monday) to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. During his mass for those migrants who lost their lives trying to reach this refuge, he addressed the plight of all migrants and their conditions.

“‘Where is your brother?’ the voice of his blood cries even to me, God says. This is not a question addressed to others: it is a question addressed to me, to you, to each one of us.  These our brothers and sisters seek to leave difficult situations in order to find a little serenity and peace, they seek a better place for themselves and for their families – but they found death. How many times do those who seek this not find understanding, do not find welcome, do not find solidarity! And their voices rise up even to God!”

Here is the entire text from Vatican Radio.

The website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a host of other resources for catechists (including the primary catechists of children, their parents) and others interested in learning more about Catholic Social teaching on immigrants and migration.

By the way, your knowledge and articulation of Catholic teaching on immigration will demonstrate that the Catholic Church is certainly not “a one-issue Church” as some have sought to portray us. Justice for the immigrant is now and always will be a high priority for our community of believers in this nation of immigrants.

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