We are called to awaken to the mysterious presence of the crucified and risen Lord in the person of the migrant.
Migrants and immigrants are in our parishes and in our communities. In both our countries, we see much injustice and violence against them and much suffering and despair among them because civil and church structures are still inadequate to accommodate their basic needs.
We judge ourselves as a community of faith by the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.
The treatment of migrants challenges the consciences of elected officials, policymakers, enforcement officers, residents of border communities, and providers of legal aid and social services, many of whom share our Catholic faith. At this rally in Boston, U.S. citizens are calling upon elected officials to act with compassion. The crosses represent the lives lost by thousands of immigrants trying to enter the U.S. in search of work to feed their families.
Catholic teaching has a long and rich tradition in promoting hospitality and defending immigrants. The Scriptures, and the life and model of Jesus, are the basis of the Church's present teaching on immigration.
OLD TESTAMENT The model of Abraham receiving strangers in welcoming hospitality is in Genesis:18 “You shall not oppress an alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien.” Exodus 2:9 “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself. Leviticus 19:34
New Testament The Visitation: a model of compassionate hospitality. Luke 1:39-45
New Testament The Holy Family: immigrants in a strange land. Mt 2: 13-23
Our common faith in Jesus Christ moves us to search for ways that favor a spirit of solidarity. It is a faith that transcends borders and bids us to overcome all forms of discrimination and violence so that we may build relationships that are just and loving.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me… whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25: 36,40
New Testament “Love one another with mutual affection…exercise hospitality.” -Romans 9-10, 13 “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” -Hebrews 13: 1-2
The word of God and Catholic social teaching also bring to light the causes that give rise to migrations, as well as the consequences that they have on the communities of origin and destination.
The Modern Era Pope Pius XII affirmed that all peoples have “the right to conditions worthy of human life and, if these conditions are not present, the right to migrate.”
Pope John XXIII: "Every human being has the right to freedom of movement; and the right to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there." The Modern Era
Pope John Paul II, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico, 1993, declared: “We are called to awaken to the mysterious presence of the crucified and risen Lord in the person of the migrant.”
Pope John Paul II in his 1995 message for World Migration Day, notes that undocumented migrants are used by developed nations as a source of labor and “their contributions, rights and dignity must be recognized.” “Poverty is the cause of most migration. Ultimately elimination of global underdevelopment is the antidote to illegal immigration.”
Message Of Pope Benedict XVI For The World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2007) “In the Family of Nazareth, obliged to take refuge in Egypt, we can catch a glimpse of the painful condition in which all migrants live, the hardships and humiliations, the fragility of their well- being.” “The immigrant family must be ensured of a real possibility of inclusion and participation in their new homeland.”
Five principles emerge from such teachings, which guide the Church's view on migration issues. 1. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.
2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.
3. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.
4. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection
5. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
In 2000, the U.S. Catholic Bishops issued a statement on immigration that has guided the American Church’s response to current and proposed immigration policies
“We witness the pain of our people involved in all sides of the migration phenomenon, including families devastated by the loss of loved ones.”
“The human dignity and human rights of all documented and undocumented migrants should be respected. Regardless of their legal status, migrants possess human dignity. Government policies that respect human rights are necessary.”
“We urge communities to offer migrant families and workers hospitality, not hostility, along their journey. We encourage social services, citizenship classes, community organizing efforts for improved housing, decent wages, better medical attention, and appropriate educational opportunities for immigrants and refugees. ”
The Bishops tell us: “Making legal the large number of undocumented workers would help to stabilize the labor market in the U. S., to preserve family unity, and to improve the standard of living in immigrant communities.”
U.S. Bishops’ Recommendations on Immigrant Workers We advocate reform of the 1996 immigration laws that have undermined some basic human rights for immigrants. We join with others of good will in a call for legalization opportunities for the maximum number of undocumented persons. U.S. employment-based immigration system should be reformed to feature both permanent and temporary visa programs for laborers.
Resources are just a click away: www.justiceforimmigrants.org
“Our common faith in Jesus Christ moves us to search for ways to treat all immigrants in a spirit of solidarity. It is a faith that transcends borders and bids us to overcome all forms of discrimination and violence”
Catholic teaching also states that the root causes of migration– poverty, injustice, religious intolerance, armed conflicts–must be addressed so that migrants can remain in their homeland and support their families.
Pope John Paul II also addressed the more controversial topic of undocumented migration and the undocumented migrant. In his 1995 message for World Migration Day, he notes that such migrants are used by developed nations as a source of labor. Ultimately, the pope says, elimination of global underdevelopment is the antidote to illegal immigration.
The Church recognizes the right of a sovereign state to control its borders in furtherance of the common good. It also recognizes the right of human persons to migrate so that they can realize their God-given rights. These teachings complement each other.
We stand in solidarity with you, our migrant brothers and sisters, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf for just and fair migration policies.
We commit ourselves to animate communities of Christ's disciples on both sides of the border to accompany you on your journey so that yours will truly be a journey of hope, not of despair, and so that, at the point of arrival, you will experience that you are strangers no longer and instead members of God's household. We pray that, wherever you go, you will always be conscious of your dignity as human beings and of your call to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ, who came that we "might have life and have it more abundantly" (Jn 10:10).