Karol Diaz, in fifth grade at Assumption B.V.M. School in West Grove, was among the youngest of those attending the Liturgy of the Word for justice for immigrants and refugees led by Archbishop Charles Chaput at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on Sunday, March 19.
(Read the full text of the archbishop’s homily here, see a photo gallery of the prayer service here, and listen to the recorded homily here. Watch the video below.)
In very few words, Diaz got to the heart of the matter.
“I’m here for my parents. They are immigrants and they don’t have papers,” he said.
This too was addressed by Archbishop Chaput in his homily when he spoke of the fear and anxiety in the immigrant community.
“Parents are afraid of being separated from one another and their children,” he said. “Children are afraid that when they come home from school their parents will be gone.”
The purpose of the liturgy, the archbishop said, was to gather as a church to pray and reflect on the immigration issue that is a source of great division and polarization in the United States today.
“Since we are Christians we have a serious obligation, a vocation, to be concerned about justice, charity and mercy,” he said.
He acknowledged there are good people on both sides of the issue and “as followers of Jesus Christ we need to resist the temptation to demonize those with whom we disagree,” he said.
The archbishop made very clear on which side the Catholic Church and the American Catholic bishops stand.
“We believe that good government should welcome foreigners out of charity and respect for the human person,” he said in his homily. With the help of Father Thomas Viviano, it was simultaneously translated into Spanish, the language of many of the approximately 200 people who were in attendance.
“We believe that people have a right to immigrate when they need to find work and ways of making the lives of their families better,” he told the congregation. “This is a matter of basic human rights.”
Justice for Immigrants and Refugees from Kearns Media Consulting LLC on Vimeo.
At the same time, the bishops believe “a country has a right to an ordered immigration process,” he said, adding “enforcement of the laws of our country (is) important.”
Immigrants who are guilty of such crimes as smuggling, drug trafficking and human trafficking should be deported, Archbishop Chaput acknowledged, but when it comes to enforcement of immigration laws the family should be respected above all.
“We can’t separate families from one another or parents from their children. Enforcement should be humane and proportional,” he said.
At the beginning of his homily Archbishop Chaput quoted from the Office of Readings for the day from the Book of Exodus, which for the occasion was spot on: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien for you were once aliens yourself in the Land of Egypt.”
As a matter of fact, many of those attending the service were not immigrants or aliens but descended from forebears who were.
“My parents came from Germany, from Bavaria,” said Trinitarian Sister Bernadine Schmalhoffer, who attended in solidarity with the immigrants. “It was rough and they had to struggle to make a living, and I’m sure these poor people will make it.”
Father John Newns brought a busload of about 25 of his parishioners from St. Ann Parish in Phoenixville, and most were indeed immigrants although the little children were born here. “Many of our people are from Mexico and Guatemala,” he said.
Whatever their place of birth, they appreciated the service. “Everything was wonderful,” said Angel Julian, who attended with the St. Ann group. “I’m American but many people here are not. But as the archbishop said, we are all brothers and sisters, we are all the same.”
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Most of those who say that they are the descendants of immigrants forgot that their ancestors probably came here legally.
There is a world of difference between coming to the US legally or illegally. As the child of immigrants I completely understand that there is no free ride. The gates of our Sovereign Nations do not, in good conscience and common sense, do not have to be open to anyone who chooses to come here.
My ancestors wanted to come here and were happy to enjoy the freedom and knew that they had to work for a living. They never expected something for nothing.
I am a Catholic , immigrant, and a former refugee. If the Church wants to stop seperating families, they should be complaining about birthright citizenship. We waited in line years to be vetted, entered the USA legally, obeyed laws, and learned English. We were always treated well by Americans because we followed the rules. The Catholic Church knows about rules
I attended the Prayer Service and was impressed by the homily given by Archbishop Chaput. He was fair, balanced and stressed the Church’s teaching on welcoming the stranger.
However, I think that the headline here, “Archbishop Chaput: Enforce immigration laws, don’t separate families” is misleading. While the Archbishop was emphatic about how wrong it is that the recent DHS poliy can lead to separation of parents from children, he also said : “… the American Bishops oppose, strenuously oppose, an “enforcement only” immigration policy… .” This is important for people to hear.
If America has the obligation to admit every immigrant seeking a better life we cannot have an orderly process. If we have an orderly process we cannot allow every person who enters the country in search of a better life to stay. There are at least two billion people on this planet who have lives as bad or worse than the average Central American. For instance, 800,000,000 innocent humans are drinking contaminated water, which is just as dangerous as living in a war zone. Do they all have the right to come here?
The Catholic bishops are not being honest about what can and cannot be done. A real solution to this problem starts with facing the facts, not quoting Bible verses and playing to the crowd.
Well said. The United States of America is a country. It is not a marketplace where people around the world come to find work. Sounds like the Archbishop is advocating for open borders. Perhaps he voted for Hillary.
Illegal immigration is wrong . Sanctuary cities must not cover up for criminal behavior . I agree that we should show compassion when dealing with the immigration issue.