||April 3, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 7 • Oakland, CA|
'When I was a stranger, you welcomed me'
When one part of the body suffers, all parts suffer with it.
Even more, in the Catholic Church, all the baptized are not only equal "members," but are brothers and sisters in Christ. We had a large statue of the Blessed Mother in my high school, and at her feet were students from various races and nationalities. In the beautiful carving, Mary had extended the mantle of her cloak to cover them all. Are we trying to push people out of our communities, out from our Catholic parishes and schools, out from under Mary's mantle ... because they don't have papers?
Here is what we are doing as a Church to follow God's express command to help.
• Representatives of the US Bishops' Conference are meeting with leaders of our government in Washington to intercede for our immigrant community, asking that parents not be separated from each other or from their children.
• Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and I are meeting in early April with the head of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the Bay Area to intercede for our own local communities.
• I ask all pastors and principals of Catholic parishes and schools not to allow agents from ICE to enter our church and school properties without proper legal warrants. Please contact Cristina Hernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org; or 510-267-8379) at the chancery for immediate assistance.
• We will continue to provide services to those who seek assistance, such as food, shelter and legal aid, through our related organizations, such as Catholic Charities, regardless of the person's national origin, religion or immigration status. Contact Catholic Charities of the East Bay (cceb.org) and St. Vincent de Paul chapters for assistance.
• The diocese is organizing training sessions and workshops in every region and deanery so people may know their rights and protections under the law. I ask pastors to publicize these workshops to the greatest extent possible. There are many community and legal resources for our people that are just a phone call away. "Knowing your rights," and "What to do if ICE should come knocking," are two of the greatest assets to reduce the level of fear and anxiety in our people.
• The Diocese of Oakland supports the dignity of all persons without regard to immigration status. The Church asks the Congress and president to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Until that happens, the Church stands in solidarity with those who are currently living "in the shadows."
I realize people of good will may have differing opinions on immigration. But if you are a Christian and consider yourself a disciple of Christ, I ask you to please consider the situation from Christ's point of view. We do not demonize those with whom we disagree. We are Americans, yes. But Christians, first. Remember what happened when Joseph was commanded by the angel to get up in the middle of the night, take Mary and the Child, and flee to Egypt. Would you have deported them from Egypt, because they did not have papers? Deported them back into Herod's hands?
(The headline above, "When I was a stranger, you welcomed me," is from Matthew 25:35.)
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