Tuesday, February 21, 2017

POPE FRANCIS: The Protection of Migrants Is A Moral Duty

Pope Francis Addresses Refugees & Migrants

Tuesday, February 21, 2017  Vatican City


Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I extend to you my cordial greeting, with deep appreciation for your invaluable work. I thank Archbishop Tomasi for his kind words, as well as Doctor Pöttering for his address. I am also grateful for the three testimonies which reflect in a tangible way the theme of this Forum: “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action”. In effect, it is not possible to view the present challenges of contemporary migratory movement and of the promotion of peace, without including the twofold term “development and integration”: for this very reason I wanted to establish the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with a Section concerned exclusively for migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking.

Migration, in its various forms, is not a new phenomenon in humanity’s history. It has left its mark on every age, encouraging encounter between peoples and the birth of new civilizations. In its essence, to migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland.

The beginning of this third millennium is very much characterized by migratory movement which, in terms of origin, transit and destination, involves nearly every part of the world. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions: “The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 5 August 2013).

Before this complex panorama, I feel the need to express particular concern for the forced nature of many contemporary migratory movements, which increases the challenges presented to the political community, to civil society and to the Church, and which amplifies the urgency for a coordinated and effective response to these challenges.

Our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.

To welcome. “Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 12 January 2015). Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centredness and amplified by populist rhetoric, what is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors. For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organizations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels. A responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by offering them decent and appropriate shelter. The enormous gathering together of persons seeking asylum and of refugees has not produced positive results. Instead these gatherings have created new situations of vulnerability and hardship. More widespread programs of welcome, already initiated in different places, seem to favour a personal encounter and allow for greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success.

To protect. My predecessor, Pope Benedict, highlighted the fact that the migratory experience often makes people more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 18 October 2005). We are speaking about millions of migrant workers, male and female – and among these particularly men and women in irregular situations – of those exiled and seeking asylum, and of those who are victims of trafficking. Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted. Protecting these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant; implementing just and far reaching political choices; prioritizing constructive processes, which perhaps are slower, over immediate results of consensus; implementing timely and humane programs in the fight against “the trafficking of human flesh” which profits off others’ misfortune; coordinating the efforts of all actors, among which, you may be assured will always be the Church.

To promote. Protecting is not enough. What is required is the promotion of an integral human development of migrants, exiles and refugees. This “takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” (Apostolic Letter Humanam Progressionem, 17 August 2016). Development, according to the social doctrine of the Church (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 373-374), is an undeniable right of every human being. As such, it must be guaranteed by ensuring the necessary conditions for its exercise, both in the individual and social context, providing fair access to fundamental goods for all people and offering the possibility of choice and growth. Also here a coordinated effort is needed, one which envisages all the parties involved: from the political community to civil society, from international organizations to religious institutions. The human promotion of migrants and their families begins with their communities of origin. That is where such promotion should be guaranteed, joined to the right of being able to emigrate, as well as the right to not be constrained to emigrate (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 12 October 2012), namely the right to find in one’s own homeland the conditions necessary for living a dignified life. To this end, efforts must be encouraged that lead to the implementation of programs of international cooperation, free from partisan interests, and programs of transnational development which involve migrants as active protagonists.

To integrate. Integration, which is neither assimilation nor incorporation, is a two-way process, rooted essentially in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness: it is not the superimposing of one culture over another, nor mutual isolation, with the insidious and dangerous risk of creating ghettos. Concerning those who arrive and who are duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country, respecting above all its laws, the family dimension of the process of integration must not be overlooked: for this reason I feel the need to reiterate the necessity, often presented by the Magisterium (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 15 August 1986), of policies directed at favouring and benefiting the reunion of families. 

With regard to indigenous populations, they must be supported, by helping them to be sufficiently aware of and open to processes of integration which, though not always simple and immediate, are always essential and, for the future, indispensable. This requires specific programs, which foster significant encounters with others. Furthermore, for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of persons of various cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its catholicity, since unity, which does not nullify ethnic and cultural diversity, constitutes a part of the life of the Church, who in the Spirit of Pentecost is open to all and desires to embrace all (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 5 August 1987).

I believe that conjugating these four verbs, in the first person singular and in the first person plural, is today a responsibility, a duty we have towards our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, of civility and of solidarity.
First of all, a duty of justice. We can no longer sustain unacceptable economic inequality, which prevents us from applying the principle of the universal destination of the earth’s goods. We are all called to undertake processes of apportionment which are respectful, responsible and inspired by the precepts of distributive justice. “We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 8 December 2013, 9). 

One group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources. We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs. Nor can we be indifferent or think ourselves dispensed from the moral imperatives which flow from a joint responsibility to care for the planet, a shared responsibility often stressed by the political international community, as also by the Magisterium (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 9; 163; 189, 406). This joint responsibility must be interpreted in accord with the principle of subsidiarity, “which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power” (Laudato Si’, 196). Ensuring justice means also reconciling history with our present globalized situation, without perpetuating mind-sets which exploit people and places, a consequence of the most cynical use of the market in order to increase the well being of the few. As Pope Benedict affirmed, the process of decolonization was delayed “both because of new forms of colonialism and continued dependence on old and new foreign powers, and because of grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence” (Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 33). For all this there must be redress.

Second, there is a duty of civility. Our commitment to migrants, exiles and refugees is an application of those principles and values of welcome and fraternity that constitute a common patrimony of humanity and wisdom which we draw from. Such principles and values have been historically codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in numerous conventions and international agreements. “Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance” (ibid., 62). Today more than ever, it is necessary to affirm the centrality of the human person, without allowing immediate and ancillary circumstances, or even the necessary fulfillment of bureaucratic and administrative requirements, to obscure this essential dignity. As Saint John Paul II stated, an “irregular legal status cannot allow the migrant to lose his dignity, since he is endowed with inalienable rights, which can neither be violated nor ignored” (John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 25 July 1995, 2). 

From the duty of civility is also regained the value of fraternity, which is founded on the innate relational constitution of the human person: “A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 8 December 2013, 1). Fraternity is the most civil way of relating with the reality of another person, which does not threaten us, but engages, reaffirms and enriches our individual identity (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to Participants in an Interacademic Conference on “The Changing Identity of the Individual”, 28 January 2008).

Finally, there is a duty of solidarity. In the face of tragedies which take the lives of so many migrants and refugees – conflicts, persecutions, forms of abuse, violence, death – expressions of empathy and compassion cannot help but spontaneously well-up. “Where is your brother” (Gen 4:9): this question which God asks of man since his origins, involves us, especially today with regard to our brothers and sisters who are migrating: “This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us” (Homily at the "Arena" Sports Camp, Salina Quarter, Lampedusa, 8 July 2013). Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs. Upon this, in short, is based the sacred value of hospitality, present in religious traditions. 

For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveller is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35). The duty of solidarity is to counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable. Thus “a change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 5 August 2013).

As I conclude these reflections, allow me to draw attention again to a particularly vulnerable group of migrants, exiles and refugees whom we are called to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate. I am speaking of the children and young people who are forced to live far from their homeland and who are separated from their loved ones. I dedicated my most recent Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees to them, highlighting how “we need to work towards protection, integration and long-term solutions” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 8 September 2016).

I trust that these two days will bear an abundant fruit of good works. I assure you of my prayers; and, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.



© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vatica

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A VISIT TO MIDDLE EAST REFUGEES

On February 21 and 22, I will be attending an International Forum on the plight of the world's refugees in Rome--sponsored by the Church and bringing together many persons and organizations helping the vast refugee populations of the world.

Then on February 23, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Kevin Appleby and I will fly to Lebanon to begin a four-country tour to be with various refugee groups.  Almost all of these refugees have had to flee terror, wars, persecution, lack of food and medical care, and general hopelessness.  Our mission is to bring that sense of "closeness" of Pope Francis to them, and to extend reasons for hope.  We will also be encouraging the caregivers taking care of refugees in so many places.

From Lebanon, we will fly to Jordan to visit refugee centers there, then on to Erbil in northern Iraq, and conclude in Greece where so many refugees are stranded.

Please continue to pray for all refugees and peoples on the move across the world, and to support the tremendous work of Catholic Relief Services [CRS] in so many countries around the world.

Friday, February 3, 2017

IF YOU LIKE PEACHES, YOU'LL LOVE IMMIGRANTS


Without immigrants, those with legal status and those without, the State of California would shut down.

Recently I was driving through the lush San Joaquin Valley of central California listening to a local talk radio station which was berating immigrants, regurgitating the ill-informed rhetoric that has become so popular in the recent election campaigns. As I passed endless miles of dormant orchards and vineyards, open fields awaiting Spring planting, my eye caught sight of a group of men pruning peach trees.

I found an exit from the highway and doubled back to get a closer look. These young peach trees were just beginning to sprout pink and red buds, so the men were working quickly to complete the entire orchard.



Their pruning these trees is not a simple task. It requires both science and art, and next season's peach harvest depends on these farm workers having a special eye to prune the right branch. I was fascinated to watch once again these professionals at work. One worker explained that this coming season's peaches will form on the new small branches from last year. Pruning the wrong ones means no peaches.

These are immigrants--some may or may not have legal status.





While these farm workers were busy at this orchard, thousands more were spread across this fertile Valley pruning grape vines and many other fruit trees so that you and I can enjoy fresh fruit, table grapes, and fine wines in the coming months.

I asked these workers if non-Hispanics ever work along side them, and they looked at me amazed. They said that even in the midst of the Great Recession they never saw anyone approach the farmers looking for work doing these difficult tasks.

These immigrants are essential to California's agricultural business, one of the prominent elements of the state's economy. California leads the nation in the production of fruits, vegetables, wines and nuts. The state's most valuable crops are nuts, grapes, cotton, flowers, and oranges. California produces the major share of U.S. domestic wine. Dairy products contribute the single largest share of farm income.

Without our immigrant brothers and sisters, agricultural would quickly vanish as the great economic engine it is.





In California immigrants are the employee engine not only of agriculture, but also of tourism, hotel and motel employees, restaurant chefs and staff, clothing manufacturing, landscape installation and maintenance, all phases of construction work, car washing and detailing, and countless other segments of production and service.

Of this group of farm workers I met one who had just finished high school. He was helping his father prune trees because they must be pruned before the buds emerged. There was a rhythmical urgency to their work, and he told me they had hundreds more acres to prune. He said that soon he was going to go to Fresno State University and major in agriculture so that he could be part of the management and science side of farming.

This brief stop on the way home was a vivid reminder to me of the essential value of our immigrant brothers and sisters to all of us across the country.

As I continued my journey south, I prayed a special Rosary for these farm workers and their families--invoking the assistance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Juan Diego, and St. Joseph the Worker.

The next time I enjoy a peach, I'll wonder which tree it came from.




Sunday, December 11, 2016

Our Lady of Guadalupe 2016

As we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this Monday (December 12th), I wholeheartedly join my brothers in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in our call for a National Day of Prayer and Solidarity with our immigrant families. I am deeply grateful to our Conference President and Vice President, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and our own Archbishop José Gomez, for their leadership in this important effort for the migrant communities in our country, whose fears and challenges in these troubling days cry out for our prayers and our action on their behalf.

I was recently privileged to share some impressions on the difficulties facing the immigrants among us in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily newspaper. Since the article was published in Italian, the following is my original draft in English.

On her feast and always, may America’s presence of Mary, our Mother Guadalupe, guide and help our Church as week seek to serve her children. ¡Virgen de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros!

_____________

“The American Dream”

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop-emeritus of Los Angeles

Over recent days, the United States Senate heard the moving story of a young man named Rey Piñeda.  Born in Mexico, Rey came with his family to the United States at age 2. Because of his status as an undocumented immigrant, he was prevented from fulfilling his hopes for an education and pursuing his life’s ideals, until the 2012 introduction of the national Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which has provided him and close to 770,000 other young people protection from deportation and allowing them authorization to work.

While President-elect Donald J. Trump has pledged to implement several severe immigration policies, including the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and the construction of a wall on the Mexican border, the most pressing and imminent challenge his incoming Administration presents on this critical issue is its promise to rescind the DACA program.

Fr. Rey Piñeda
Recently ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and assigned as a parochial vicar at its Cathedral of Christ the King, for Fr. Rey Piñeda, the closing of DACA would likely mean the end his ability to serve, forcing him and thousands of others to return to “the shadows,” where our undocumented sisters and brothers live in fear of a “knock at the door” taking them away from their homes, their families and life as they know it, most of them never to return.

Known as the “DREAMers,” these young people in their teens and 20s were brought to the U.S. by their parents as young children, unaware of any laws or documents, only knowing and seeking to be with their families.  More than being bright and talented contributors to this nation, they are our future leaders, even in the Church: even today, they are already Americans in everything but citizenship.

According to a study by the Center for Migration Studies of New York, the DREAMers are deeply embedded in U.S. society.  Eighty-five percent have lived in the United States for ten years or more.  Ninety-three percent have at least a high school degree, with forty-three percent having attended college or graduated from college.  Eighty-nine percent are employed – and thus pay taxes – while ninety-one percent speak English very well or exclusively.

To remove protections from this group is not only mean-spirited, but a foolish act of self-sabotage to both the national interest and the values which have always made this country great.  Today, as it has been since our nation’s founding, the promise and common good of this nation is best served when we support hard-working, intelligent young people, and give them the means to flourish.  It is in this tradition that preserving DACA is our only sane, moral and truly American way forward.

Unlike the Border wall and several other aspects of his immigration proposals, upon the moment he assumes office next month, President-elect Trump will be able to eliminate the DACA program with the stroke of a pen.  He will, however, find that removing these young people will not be so easy.  I believe that the American people will not allow it, both in terms of public opinion and in active resistance.

In other words, I believe Americans will not cooperate with Mr. Trump's Administration on implementing mass deportations, most especially the deportation of young immigrants.  These DREAMers are now part of our social fabric—we see them everyday in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools.  They have forged bonds with U.S. citizens who know them as people, not a "status" or piece of paperwork.  They are contributing their energies to this country, and have fought for their God-given rights and their place at our national table.  Some serve in the U.S. military, others in education or health-care, yet regardless of their chosen profession, the DREAMers show us that the “American dream” is alive and well in their hands.

Should President-elect Trump move to eliminate DACA, calls have already emerged for churches and communities to protect them by not cooperating with immigration enforcement and by providing sanctuary for those likely to be affected.  I add my voice to that call, and I am particularly gratified to be joined by a growing number of my brother bishops, as well as nearly 100 of the presidents of our nation’s Catholic colleges and universities, who have spoken up in support of these sisters and brothers of ours.

Pope Francis captures the spirit and heart of what we seek to say. “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity,” he wrote in 2014.  “They are children, women, and men who leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and being, but above all being more.”

Still closer to home, on his visit last year to our nation’s very birthplace at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Holy Father expressed his “particular affection” for the U.S.’ latest generation of new arrivals, urging them to “not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face.

“You bring many gifts to your new nation,” the Pope told today's migrants among us, encouraging them to “never be ashamed of your traditions… which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”

After an election campaign which has exposed bitter divides among our people and, sadly, unearthed sicknesses in our society that many thought were left in the past, advocating for policies like DACA and those it benefits is just one part of the challenge we face as a Church.

On one side, the fear and anxiety which have gripped our immigrant communities in these days isn’t simply real, but currently running as deep as many of us who serve among them have ever seen.  Even more, however, as citizens committed to the common good and pastors who seek to serve and imitate the Lord Jesus, one of the harrowing lessons this campaign season has shown us is the degree to which many people who profess to be Christian, and even Catholic, have succumbed to the “throwaway culture,” both in our national discourse and in the policies they deemed acceptable to support.

While it is true that the current political environment of the U.S. has made many of our faithful feel “politically homeless,” I fear that many Christians, among them more than a few Catholics, have somehow become misled about the demands of the Gospel regarding how we treat our neighbor, or how we answer the very question of “Who is our neighbor?”  Much as we have sought to be prophetic witnesses to Christ and His teaching in and out of season, the new political reality places a particular burden upon our ministry as shepherds: in word and example, to express ever more powerfully to our people that the commission to serve “the least of these” is not an ideological proposal that one may see as disposable but, as Pope Francis has so frequently described it, “the protocol by which we,” as Christians, “will be judged.”

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  The threat of deporting young people to a country they do not know, or the prospect that the Church’s efforts on behalf of immigrants could face civil intimidation or attempts at closure, raise the specter of an injustice that would threaten all of us, flying in the face of fairness and human decency, not to mention the very same Gospel which inspired Dr King’s movement for civil rights.  Even the possibility of these dangers would gravely weaken our communities and diminish us as a nation.  In these days, then, let us pray for the courage, wisdom and fidelity to serve our moment’s “suffering flesh of Christ” among us, in the confident faith that what we do for them, we have done for Him.

Later this month, our immigrant families will gather again at the feet of their beloved Mother as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  May la Virgen Morena, Patroness of this one American land, intercede for her children and our entire society, that our service and witness on behalf of her Son’s “least ones” may bring about a new spirit of reconciliation, liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MOTHER TERESA of CALCUTTA TO BECOME SAINT

On Sunday, September 4, 2016 Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be placed in the Church's official Book of Saints.

However, for all of us around the world, she has been a "saint" for many decades.
 Her willingness to go out onto the streets of Calcutta and to bring home to her convert the aged, the dying, the gravely ill, people "thrown away" by society.

She always explained so simply:  "There is no mystery to what my Sisters and I do.  We go out onto the streets, and see in the faces of the miserable and destitute, the face of Jesus.  We just pick up Jesus and take him home with us."

Her heroic following of Jesus in the Gospels is the foundation of her life and ministry.  Like Jesus, though, she knew how important it was to spend time in prayer with the Father.  That's why she and her Community devote many hours each day in prayer.  Prayer keeps us linked to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The first members of her Missionaries of Charity we received in Los Angeles were her Brothers.  Their ministry was across downtown Los Angeles, and they reached out to young adults who were on the streets.  Many were undocumented, others were suffering with addictions, still others were abandoned.  They saw the face of Jesus in each one, and following Mother's guidance and witness, they offered to serve them.

The second group of her Missionaries were her active Sisters.  They established their ministry in a former convent in Lynwood, and focused their ministry upon single mothers with young children, pregnant women on the streets, those most in need.

The third group were her Contemplative Sisters who live in a small house in Alhambra, and devote themselves to praying for the spiritual and pastoral success of all the works of their apostolates around the world, as well as our apostolates here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

After the death of Mother Teresa, I wrote to Pope John Paul II to ask him to begin the process towards canonization without waiting the customary five years following death.  This was granted, and her path towards the Church's official recognition that she lived out her life with heroic virtue was assured.

May St. Mother Teresa intercede for each one of us, and help us to see the face of Jesus in each other.  And the more disfigured the face, the clearer the face of Jesus!


Thursday, April 14, 2016

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHE PIERRE: A GIFT FROM POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Christophe Pierre to serve as the next Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and through this appointment Pope Francis continues to demonstrate his care and concern for the Church in our country.

Archbishop Pierre is a native of France, and as a young priest, attended the Academy in Rome which trains priests to serve in the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

In 1995, Father Pierre was appointed as the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, and ordained as Archbishop.  His first posting to this country, the poorest in the western hemisphere, came at a time of great political unrest in Haiti.  There was great tension and conflict between the president and the military, and the United Nations had to intervene to help establish order.

This first posting to such a poor and desperate nation provided Archbishop Pierre with the opportunity to serve some of the poorest people in the world, and to help guide the Church in its efforts to bring a sense of dignity and human rights to the population.  This posting helped Archbishop Pierre understand the plight of desperate peoples living in abject poverty, and to bring the Church's influence to assist them.

In 1999 Archbishop Pierre was sent to Uganda, Africa, to serve as Apostolic Nuncio to that country.  Here he encountered another poor and embattled country.  For eight years, Archbishop Pierre assisted the Church deal with civil war, the brutal Lord's Resistance Army terrorist group, and the massive displacement of peoples because of the unrest and attacks upon people  in their villages.  Poverty, refugees, hunger, and terror were the order of the day during his tenure in this country.

Then, in 2007 Archbishop Pierre was assigned as the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, our neighbor to the south.  During his nine years in that post he experienced the upheaval created by gangs and cartels involved in human trafficking and narcotics trafficking.  He saw first-hand poverty, the lack of adequate employment, and the flow of immigrants and refugees from neighboring countries to the south into Mexico, and then the trans-migration of so many into the United States to the north.

He surely understood the plight of families, single people, and unaccompanied minors fleeing every form of terror, cartel atrocities, drugs, and hopelessness--all people seeking safety, dignity, and some hope for a better future.

During the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico in February of this year, it was Archbishop Pierre who helped shape the itinerary so that Pope Francis would visit both borders:  Chiapas in the south bordering Guatemala, and Ciudad Juarez in the north bordering the United States.  Pope Francis celebrated Mass along both borders.

Archbishop Pierre also made certain that Pope Francis would celebrate Mass some distance outside Mexico City in the gritty community of Ecatepec--where hundreds of thousands live in abject poverty.  Pope Francis also visited Morelia in the very heart of a Mexican State very much in the grip of the drug cartels, and where so many people have been murdered and disappeared.

Pope Francis has sent us a new Nuncio whose heart, soul, and ministry have been shaped by Jesus Christ in his outreach to those on the outskirts of society.  I cannot imagine our receiving a new Nuncio whose life and ministry more reflects the concerns and commitment of Pope Francis himself.

In my opinion, Pope Francis has sent into our midst a Nuncio who will both proclaim and demonstrate the message of Jesus, the Good Shepherd,  towards the most vulnerable and needy in our midst, echoing the ministry of Pope Francis in our midst.

We are truly blessed with this appointment, and may God give him many blessed years among us!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

ON THE BORDER WITH OUR UNDOCUMENTED BROTHERS & SISTERS

ON THE BORDER WITH OUR UNDOCUMENTED
BROTHERS and SISTERS

Cardinal Roger Mahony
February 18, 2016


AT THE US-MEXICO BORDER, EL PASO – When the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico reached its close with his February 17th Mass at Ciudad Juarez, I could’ve had the privilege to cross the border and concelebrate with him.  Instead, however, I chose to remain on the Texas side and take part in this historic “liturgy of two nations” with a large number of undocumented people who could not legally cross over to join our Holy Father, but who were able to witness the moment as the first son of immigrants to become Bishop of Rome stretched his hand over the Rio Grande to bless them on US soil.  It was an overwhelming experience!
But before that memorable Wednesday afternoon, I was blessed to spend time with a large number of young people who were present as “unaccompanied minors” – a nice way of saying that they had endured weeks and months of anguish, attacks, deprivations, and threats to reach our country.  I met with about 40 of them in El Paso before the Pope arrived.  The majority were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 
These were young men, 16 to 22 years old, but they all looked like children.  When I asked them to tell me their stories, they told me of how they had been sent on their journeys alone by their parents, because the options for them back home were so bleak.  If they didn’t take the risk to seek a new life elsewhere, they said that all of them would have been forced into criminal gangs in one way or the other, and they would have been made to kill and maim others for the survival of the gang. 
It’s frightening when the only future ahead of you would be to capitulate to the horror and the treachery of lawlessness in your homeland.  Instead, the parents of these men were strong enough to force them to leave behind everything they knew, and to travel al norte” – to the north – in the hope of something better.  At great sacrifice and with a lot of money – money they couldn’t afford – they sent their sons and daughters across the the only possible route to the US: the border between Guatemala and Mexico. 
It was a moving grace to meet with these courageous young people, to come to know them, and to listen to their stories.  The only way they survived traveling north through Mexico was meeting one or two others on the same journey.  As they described it, they became compadres brothers and sisters on a common journey – and endured incredible obstacles: drug lords controlled most of the territory they had to travel, and they were attacked, threatened, and humiliated every mile of the trip – a journey of many weeks.  Often, and in more ways than one, they faced death, whether from trying to jump onto moving trains or from a lack of food and water.  But the most frequent, and painful, reason why their lives were in danger was the lack of anyone who cared for them.
These men arrived at our border not as criminals, but as desperate souls and children of God.  All they came seeking was a future free from the crime, injustice, and slavery of being pawns in an empire of what Pope Francis calls “modern slavery”: the twin evils of drug and human trafficking which are destroying countless lives and communities in Central America. 
In the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that “whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” and by that standard we will be judged.  Today, what we do for these men and those like them is what we do for the Lord himself.
It was a special grace to be with these sisters and brothers of ours on the border, within eyesight of the Pope’s final Mass in Mexico.  We may have been physically divided from Juarez by the pathetic Rio Grande, guarded by the Border Patrol officers everywhere around, but in something no human obstacle can restrict – the Eucharist and the love of Christ – we were one.
When Pope Francis walked up the ramp to the shrine and prayed in grief for those who have attempted to better their lives who have crossed the border, these young men could only view the scene through fencing.  A photo tells the story – the exclusion and distance it represents is powerful.  It is the sign and story of what the Holy Father has termed “a globalization of indifference.”
But at the very same moment, another picture told of the hope that can overcome it: three of these men, offering a salute and exchange of fraternity from the North to the South.  In this, we see the Pope’s constant reminder that all of us are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, and that – both as a church and society – as he said during his US visit last year, the mission the Lord entrusts to us is “is not about building walls, but about breaking them down.”

I returned to Los Angles with a renewed enthusiasm to walk the journey of peace, fraternity, and well-being for all of our brothers and sisters who have endured, and are now enduring, the fences that separate us.  May the Lord, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, bless and strengthen us in our task.