Fear of the stranger and a desire to protect one’s own family or community from the unknown are ingrained in human behavior. Yet these are just a few of the responses that human beings are capable of. From ancient times until today there is also the impulse to extend hospitality and protection to those who are displaced, homeless or in great danger.
The Catholic Church is consistent and forthright in support of migrants and refugees, calling all the faithful to welcome and protect them. This support is not the result of ideology or agenda, and the Church affirms the right of any country to protect its borders. Yet the deepest traditions and teachings of Judaism and Christianity encourage us to overcome our fears and aid the poor, the homeless and the stranger.
The U.S bishops, following the principles of Catholic teaching and the example of the popes, have been resolute in their support of the duty of Catholics to welcome the migrant and the refugee. They affirm the right of nations to secure their borders while at the same time calling for immigration reform and opposing actions that break up families, dividing children from their parents and husbands from their wives.
As Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said in his homily at a prayer service for immigrants and refugees:“It’s not enough for us to accept the teachings of the Church about immigration. It’s important for us also to embrace those teachings in a passionate kind way. It’s important for us not to be afraid because this is a difficult, complex and controversial issue.”
A PRAYER FOR OUR COUNTRY
We know, Lord, that you yourself are a migrant. You experienced the trials of the refugee, having fled as a child with your parents, Joseph and Mary, to Egypt. We know your special love for those with no other possession but one another, and you. Move our hearts, Lord, and the hearts of our leaders to love them as you do, to love them with your love, to be your love for migrants at the doorway of our country.
(Excerpt from Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away: Pastoral Letter of Migration by Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Diocese of El Paso.)