Using strong language, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso — which sits on the border between the United States and Mexico — has called on Catholics to consider the challenges of a system that is breaking apart our community and to reflect upon how God is asking us to respond.
In a Pastoral Letter on Migration, Bishop Seitz denounces narratives that paint our border as a place of chaos, violence and mayhem. In contrast to indefensible, hateful words towards our neighbours in Mexico, the demonization of migrants, and destructive language about our border, Bishop Seitz paints a picture of a community shaped by migration from its very foundation; a community with its own unique identity and unique strengths, a place of safety and security. The Bishop, who was appointed to the See of El Paso four years ago, notes that the Church has been at the forefront of those calling for comprehensive immigration reform — a reform elected leaders have not found the moral courage to enact. Laws, he said, must be at the service of human persons; that is, they must respect the human dignity of each person, which has a higher value than the minutiae of the law.
Building walls, deploying a mass deportation force and militarizing our border are not long-term solutions to the challenges of migration, Bishop Seitz says. Following the magisterial teaching of recent Popes, the Bishop argues for comprehensive immigration reform that includes sufficient legal avenues for people to migrate; putting families first; addressing the root causes of migration; and providing security while allowing movement.
But while recalling Church teaching on migration, Bishop Seitz also notes the importance of encounter. Sometimes, he says nothing can substitute for personal experience. He encourages those outside the community to Come and see! Migrants and migration, the Bishop says, quoting Benedict XVI, are not a problem to be solved, but rather ‘a great resource for humanity’s development’.
In his conclusion, Bishop Seitz recalls the words of Pope Francis: We belong to a Church without frontiers, a Church which considers herself mother to all. His letter concludes with a Prayer for Migrants.
For more about Catholic Social Teachings on Immigration and the Movement of Peoples, please visit the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the fairgrounds in Juárez City, at the border with El Paso Texas on Wednesday, February 17, 2016. His Homily included some further reflections that also call for focus on the plight of migrants.