The Catholic Church is no stranger to the headlines. As a Catholic I am often disappointed by its focus in the media and its presentation and stance on many issues.
However, since the selection and inauguration of Pope Francis, much of the conversation in and around the Catholic Church has changed. Last month, when the Pontiff met with President Obama, immigration became the latest issue to make international headlines from the self proclaimed “Pope of the Poor”. Pope Francis highlighted the struggles of migrants and the often inhumane U.S. immigration policies and laws. A ten year old girl from Los Angeles, who was able to speak to the Pope, shared the story of her father who had been in detention and who she hadn’t seen for two years. Shortly after the story broke, her father was released from detention. USCIS claimed the two events were unrelated – perhaps it was the Pope’s first miracle?
To me, this time the Catholic Church is on the right side of the debate. Other recent efforts by the Church to draw attention to the need for reform include the Mass held at the border on April 1, led by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, which brought together family members on both sides of the border fence to remember those who had died trying to cross the border into the U.S.
Across the country, many Catholic leaders are repeatedly and publicly enjoining their congregations to see immigrants as people first, as human beings who are imperfect, as we all are, most of them just trying to build a better life for themselves and their families and calling for immigration reform.
These Catholic voices are joined by thousands of others of varying faiths.
They are joined by Jewish leaders who recognize the relevance immigration has played in their religion’s histories, teachings, and U.S. experiences. They are joined by Methodists who see the destruction that our current broken system brings to communities. They are joined by Muslim faith leaders who underscore the dignity of the human life and experience and the need for laws that respect that dignity.
In one recent multi-denominational vigil in Los Angeles, all of those faiths and more were represented, all calling for immigration reform and the change necessary to keep families and communities together.
Faith leaders, who may disagree on the finer details of dogma, agree that immigration is a moral issue and one that impacts those of all faiths. This has not gone unnoticed by President Obama who on April 15 met with faith leaders to discuss immigration with the hope of reaching consensus across party lines.
People of faith, like Pope Francis, see the universality of the human condition. He calls on all of us to show compassion for our fellow man. Immigration reform done right would reflect that compassion. Perhaps religion, which we too often see as a source of division, can this time serve as a bridge to unite us and serve as a basis and foundation for immigration reform.
Written by Anastasia Tonello, AILA Secretary