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Solidarity Times Two: US Bishops pledge support to Christians of the Middle East and immigrants to America

George Martell/Pilot Media

Meeting in Baltimore, Catholic leaders speak to central issues of recent presidential campaign

The Catholic bishops of the United States on Tuesday expressed their solidarity with two vulnerable populations in particular: the Christians of the Middle East and immigrants to the United States.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Baltimore for their annual fall General Assembly, got behind a letter written by their point man on migration in support of immigrants and refugees.

A statement by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, Washington, and chairman of the migration committee, offered “support for all efforts to work together to promote the common good, especially those to protect the most vulnerable among us.” But it also expressed solidarity for “migrant and refugee families living in the United States.”

“We believe the family unit is the cornerstone of society, so it is vital to protect the integrity of the family,” Bishop Elizondo said. “For this reason, we are reminded that behind every ‘statistic’ is a person who is a mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother and has dignity as a child of God. We pray that as the new administration begins its role leading our country, it will recognize the contributions of refugees and immigrants to the overall prosperity and well-being of our nation. We will work to promote humane policies that protect refugees and immigrants’ inherent dignity, keep families together, and honor and respect the laws of this nation.”

Serving and welcoming people fleeing violence and conflict in various regions of the world is “part of our identity as Catholics,” the bishop continued. “The Church will continue this life-saving tradition. Today, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, the need to welcome refugees and provide freedom from persecution is more acute than ever and 80 of our dioceses across the country are eager to continue this wonderful act of accompaniment born of our Christian faith. We stand ready to work with a new administration to continue to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans.”

These remarks are particularly relevant given President-elect Trump’s recent remarks to CBS News’ 60 Minutes,  in which he said his administration would deport 2 million to 3 million illegal immigrants who have criminal records. Trump has also said he would implement “extreme vetting” of refugees coming to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries to ensure that terrorists were not among them.

Meanwhile, at the assembly, an Eastern Catholic leader, Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, spoke on ways the Church in the United States can assist persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

“Although the vast majority of today’s refugees are non-­Christian; the vast majority of those who serve them are Christians, who continue to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth,” Bishop Mansour said. “Today Christians are more united than ever, through a common suffering, a common martyrdom, and a common assistance given to those in need.”

The bishops’ conference is urging the U.S. government to increase humanitarian aid and development assistance for refugees as well as internally displaced persons, and for those countries in the region hosting large refugee populations. The bishops also would like the government to encourage the building of inclusive alliances while working with other nations to stand against ISIS and hold them accountable for their genocidal acts.

Regarding humanitarian assistance, Catholic efforts include: developing a plan to assist Iraqi and Syrian Christians in the future in rebuilding churches, hospitals, schools, homes and livelihoods; the promotion of a linking (twinning) of parishes and dioceses between the U.S. and Churches in the Middle East; and continued funding efforts for various Catholic charities including Catholic Relief Services, Aid to the Church in Need, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and the Knights of Columbus.

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