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From Rome to Mexico City to New York and on the ground in the American Southwest, the Church has stepped forward into the controversy over the tens of thousands of young migrants penetrating the southern U.S. border.
Pope Francis has sent a message to the “Mexico/Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development,” urging protection for tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who are migrating North from Central America and Mexico in increasing numbers, Vatican Radio reported. The Holy Father’s letter was read to conference participants by Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre. The conference was also attended by the Vatican’s secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
In his message Pope Francis writes that globalization has rendered migration a “hallmark” of society today. Despite this it is still seen as an emergency or as a circumstantial phenomenon.
Above all, the Pope’s thoughts go to “the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence”. He says, “this is a category of migrants …who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain.” He notes that the numbers of children undertaking this hazardous journey “are increasing day by day.”
Pope Francis calls for "the international community to pay attention to this challenge" and for measures to be taken by the countries involved. These include policies to inform the public of the dangers of the trip north and to promote development of the migrants’ countries of origin.
US authorities have detained some 57,000 unaccompanied minors since October, twice the number from the same period a year ago. Mexican authorities have picked up 8,000 child migrants in the first five months of the year, and more than half of them were traveling by themselves.
Addressing the Colloquium, Cardinal Parolin stated: "Whether they are traveling because of poverty, or violence, or with the hope of reuniting with relatives on the other side of the border, it is urgent to protect them and help them because their vulnerability is greater and they are defenseless against any abuse or misfortune”.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York had some harsh words for protesters in Murrieta, Calif., who blocked the road so buses full of undocumented immigrants couldn’t make their way to a U.S. Border Patrol Station there in early July.
“I watched with shame as an angry mob in southern California surrounded buses filled with frightened, hungry, homeless immigrants, shaking fists, and shouting for them to ‘get out!’” the cardinal wrote at his personal website Monday. “It was un-American; it was un-biblical; it was inhumane.”
But the tactic worked, he noted, as the scared drivers turned the buses around and sought sanctuary elsewhere.
“The incendiary scene reminded me of Nativist mobs in the 1840’s, Know-Nothing gangs in the 1850’s, and KKK thugs in the 1920’s, who hounded and harassed scared immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and Blacks,” he wrote. “I think of this sad incident today, the feast of New York’s own Kateri Tekakwitha, a native-American (a Mohawk) canonized a saint just three years ago. Unless we are Native Americans, like Saint Kateri, our ancestors all came here as homesick, hungry, hopeful immigrants. I don’t think there were any Mohawks among that mob attacking the buses of refugee women and children.”
Cardinal Dolan said he witnessed a very different scene as he watched a television news broadcast Saturday. “Again there were busloads of shy, scared, immigrant women and children; again, there were crowds; this time – – in McAndrews, Texas – – the crowd was applauding the arriving refugees, and helping them into Sacred Heart Parish Hall, where parishioners and Catholic Charities workers welcomed them with a meal, a cold drink, a shower and fresh clothes, toys for the kids, and a cot as they helped government officials try to process them and figure out the next step.
“This time I was not ashamed, but relieved and grateful, proud to be an American and a Catholic,” he said. “We might argue and yell about policies, processes, and politics; we can never argue about the dignity of the human person or the sacredness of life, or yell at people who need our help.”
Here is a Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ July 14 message on the occasion of “Mexico Holy See Colloquium on Human Migration and Development:”
I would like to extend my greetings to the organizers, speakers, and participants in the "Mexico Holy See colloquium on human migration and development."
Globalization is a phenomenon that challenges us, especially in one of its principal manifestations which is emigration. It is one of the "signs" of this time that we live in and that brings us back to the words of Jesus, "Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" (Lk 12,57). Despite the large influx of migrants present in all continents and in almost all countries, migration is still seen as an emergency, or as a circumstantial and sporadic fact, while instead it has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.
It is a phenomenon that carries with it great promise and many challenges. Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.
Faced with this situation, I repeat what I have affirmed in this year’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: "A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indiference 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."
I would also like to draw attention to the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain. They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin. Finally, this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.
I wish every success to the laudable initiative of the Mexican government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in arranging a colloquium of study and reflection on the great challenge of migration and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all those present.