At border Mass, bishops call for compassion, immigration reform
Catholic News Service photo
Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., blesses people on the Mexican side as he distributes Communion through the border fence in Nogales, Ariz., April 1. A group of U.S. bishops, led by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, celebrated Mass at the bor der calling attention to the plight of migrants and appealing for changes in U.S. immigration policy.
Catholic News Service photo
People pray during Mass celebrated by a group of U.S. bishops at the border fence in Nogales, Ariz., April 1. The bishops were on a two-day visit to the U.S. border with Mexico calling attention to the plight of migrants and appealing for changes in the U.S. immigration system.
Catholic News Service
NOGALES, Ariz. — With the backdrop a few feet away of the rusted iron slats of the 30-foot wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and a dozen other bishops from three countries prayed April 1 for compassion and for a return to ideals that welcome immigrants.
More than 300 people formed the outdoor congregation on the U.S. side of the border and hundreds more participated on the Mexico side, receiving Communion pressed into hands that stretched between the slats, illustrating that, as one teenage member of the choir put it, "we are all one community -- we are all bilingual and bicultural."
Referring to a visit by Pope Francis last summer to the Italian island of Lampedusa where migrants from the Middle East and Africa try to enter Europe illegally, Cardinal O'Malley in his homily quoted the pope's comments about the "globalization of indifference."
"We have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters," Pope Francis said. "We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the good Samaritan."
Cardinal O'Malley quoted Pope Francis further: "The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people."
The Mass at the intersection of International Street and Nelson capped a two-day experience of the border region for bishops from as far away as Atlanta and Guatemala. Beginning with a Mass the day before at San Xavier del Bac Mission outside Tucson, which dates from when the entire region was part of Mexico, the bishops then walked along rough desert paths used by migrants.
Crawling under strands of barbed wire, scrunching low to walk through a culvert beneath a road, dodging cactus and sticker bushes, the group came upon empty water bottles, backpacks and other belongings abandoned by the migrants who cross the hilly, rocky terrain as they try to get past the various security measures and agents used by the Border Patrol to try to stop illegal immigration.
Then the group met with the Border Patrol at their regional headquarters, before crossing into Mexico to serve dinner at a church-sponsored "comedor," or soup kitchen. The "comedor" serves people who have been deported or who are figuring out whether they want to try to sneak into the United States.
"We come to the desert today because it is the road to Jericho," said Cardinal O'Malley in his homily. "It is traveled by many trying to reach the metropolis of Jerusalem. We come here today to be a neighbor and to find a neighbor in each of the suffering people who risk their lives and at times lose their lives in the desert.
"The hard work and sacrifices of so many immigrant peoples is the secret of the success of this country. Despite the xenophobic ranting of a segment of the population, our immigrant population contributes mightily to the economy and well-being of the United States."
He added that the group came also to mourn the loss of "countless immigrants who risk their lives at the hands of the 'coyotes' (smugglers) and the forces of nature to come to the United States."