Quote of the Week: Pope John Paul II

Quote of the Week: Pope John Paul II April 30, 2010

Migration is assuming the features of a social emergency, above all because of the increase in illegal migrants which, despite the current restrictions, it seems impossible to halt. Illegal immigration has always existed: it has frequently been tolerated because it promotes a reserve of personnel to draw on as legal migrants gradually move up the social ladder and find stable employment.

[…]

The Church considers the problem of illegal migrants from the standpoint of Christ, who died to gather together the dispersed children of God (cf. Jn 11:52), to rehabilitate the marginalized and to bring close those who are distant, in order to integrate all within a communion that is not based on ethnic, cultural or social membership, but on the common desire to accept God’s word and to seek justice. “God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35).

[…]

Thus it is important to help illegal migrants to complete the necessary administrative papers to obtain a residence permit. Social and charitable institutions can make contact with the authorities in order to seek appropriate, lawful solutions to various cases. This kind of effort should be made especially on behalf of those who, after a long stay, are so deeply rooted in the local society that returning to their country of origin would be tantamount to a form of reverse emigration, with serious consequences particularly for the children.

[…]

In the search for a solution to the problem of migration in general and illegal migrants in particular, the attitude of the host society has an important role to play. In this perspective, it is very important that public opinion be properly informed about the true situation in the migrants’ country of origin, about the tragedies involving them and the possible risks of returning. The poverty and misfortune with which immigrants are stricken are yet another reason for coming generously to their aid.

[…]

It is necessary to guard against the rise of new forms of racism or xenophobic behaviour, which attempt to make these brothers and sisters of ours scapegoats for what may be difficult local situations.

Due to the considerable proportions reached by the illegal migrant phenomenon, legislation in all the countries involved should be brought into harmony, also for a more equitable distribution of the burdens of a balanced solution. It is necessary to avoid recourse to the use of administrative regulations, meant to restrict the criterion of family membership which result in unjustifiably forcing into an illegal situation people whose right to live with their family cannot be denied by any law.

Adequate protection should be guaranteed to those who, although they have fled from their countries for reasons unforeseen by international conventions, could indeed be seriously risking their life were they obliged to return to their homeland.

[…]

In the Church no one is a stranger, and the Church is not foreign to anyone, anywhere. As a sacrament of unity and thus a sign and a binding force for the whole human race, the Church is the place where illegal immigrants are also recognized and accepted as brothers and sisters. It is the task of the various Dioceses actively to ensure that these people, who are obliged to live outside the safety net of civil society, may find a sense of brotherhood in the Christian community.

[…]

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35). It is the Church’s task not only to present constantly the Lord’s teaching of faith but also to indicate its appropriate application to the various situations which the changing times continue to create. Today the illegal migrant comes before us like that “stranger” in whom Jesus asks to be recognized. To welcome him and to show him solidarity is a duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself.

–Pope John Paul II–Message for World Migration Day, 1996.

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  • Amen.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    The Holy Father’s words are great instruction for the Church and for Christians at the face-to-face level, but at the policy level for those with a public responsibility for security and stewardship, isn’t the issue at the US-Mexico border a bit more complex?

    The issue is surely in part about poor families seeking asylum, but it’s mostly about millions of laborers coming to work and send money home (not bringing their families), criminal organizations taking advantage of the porous border, and failure of government to enforce laws already on its books.

    I lived in El Paso for years and know we can’t seal ourleves off, but a country has the right to control its borders.

    • Bruce

      The issue is more than this, and the underbelly of American history in the creation of the border is ignored. That is important for this discussion and situation. We must recognize that we took land and pushes people off of it — Native Americans all over the Americas have suffered from our taking possession of land through force. The consequence of which is a people are cut off. Put into poverty they will do what they can to live, even if it is “illegal.” We must also remember many behaviors we now call “illegal” Catholic states accepted because it helped the people (living off the land, for example, became illegal due to capitalism). Beyond that, we must look into the injustice of kicking people off of their homeland, and then telling them they have to pay money which they do not have to get back here — this is often ignored, but points to the whole mess — that we kick people out, then tell them if they pay enough (rich) they can come back. No, that is abuse and injustice. The borders are not absolutes, and we must not ignore that the borders in question were taken through abuse.

  • dan

    “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

    That sums it up for us.
    Thanks for the post.

    • Dan

      You are welcome. I thought it is important for people to remember what the Church teaches on principle, something which I see many people ignore here.

  • @Dan: not just the NT either. Many are fond of quoting bits of Leviticus but somehow aren’t so keen on 19:33-34.

  • Dave

    In all fairness, you seemed to have edited JPII’s message to make your point. You conveniently left out passages such as this one: “Illegal immigration should be prevented, but it is also essential to combat vigorously the criminal activities which exploit illegal immigrants.”

    It was unnecessary to do so in my opinion. JPII’s message is powerful on the subject as written. And, anything less than the humane treatment of aliens (all human kind for that matter) – no matter how they arrived among us – is misguided at the very least.

    • Dave — it was a quote, not the whole text of the week.

  • jh

    “Beyond that, we must look into the injustice of kicking people off of their homeland”

    Who are we kicking off their homeland?

    I don’t think the majority of Mexixian Illegal immigrants are related to the Indian tribes or native community of the Sotuhwest. At least not in studies I have seen. Further the massive amount central americans migrants we see no historical connection

    • jh –

      Who do you think the Mexicans are? People from Africa?

  • jh

    “Who do you think the Mexicans are? People from Africa?”

    No but I think you are being sort of “selective” about the history of the border. I mean Mexico as we know it as a political enity and people did not just drop down from Heaven in place.

    Again I am not sure exactly what you are getting at with connecting Native Americans in the USA to Mexicans as we now know them. I think in Arizona many might be shocked that they were always Mexicans since into the 1800’s they were at a good bit of war with Mexico and the Spaniards.

    In fact one reason for the whole anlgo settlement deal with Texas was hopes that the Americans could deal with the “commanche” problem. I am not sure a lot of Commanche view themselves as Mexicans since they were constantly attacking Northern Mexico.

    In essense I am saying if we are trying to talk about “Homeland” and kicking people off it like there is some vast ancestoral claim to it then I am not seeing it.

    • I mean Mexico as we know it as a political enity and people did not just drop down from Heaven in place.

      They didn’t drop out of Africa into Mexico, either. The whole issue of borders and lands are not within their tradition. Which is the point. Many groups moved about — and it is a part of the issue. Who exactly do you think the Mexicans were/are? You still have not answered that question. You are just looking at them and the people in relation to the borders placed around them. Mexico, the United States were two such political constructions. But the people themselves – the people, who are the people, not the “nation-state” we claim they are now from.

  • jh

    “They didn’t drop out of Africa into Mexico, either. The whole issue of borders and lands are not within their tradition. Which is the point. Many groups moved about — and it is a part of the issue. Who exactly do you think the Mexicans were/are? You still have not answered that question.”

    I think Mexicans are the people of Mexico. Which is a product of both many native peoples , European Selttlement and European Intermarraige to different degrees in different regions.

    I am not at all sure that there is no concept of “borders” in Mexican tradition. The Mexican Govt seems to have a pretty stern view of the reality of borders relating to their Southern one.

    So I need to see evidence that Mexicans have no concepts of things called borders in their tradition. Do Mexicans feel they can just wander over into Guatemala or Belize at will because they recognize Borders in their tradition?

    Further it seems to me that MEXICO is made up of a lot of groups. In some ways it is more diverse than the USA. So I am not sure there is just one Mexican way of looking at things

    • jh you are confusing the political entity with the people. And yes, it is made up of a lot of groups, of many different natives and those who have mixed ancestry because of colonization. The thing is, those groups were in Arizona. The political construction of Mexico as we know of it today is from European politics. Certainly, a bit of how the Europeans formed the state was inspired by the Aztec empire, I will grant that, but it is a reification of what came from the Aztecs, which was not often agreed upon by the people ruled by that empire, nor with absolute borders as map-making establishes. But the issue still stands, who was in Arizona? It was Mexican before we took it over. And that must be remembered when dealing with the border today. We see in Europe, similar struggles over borders, especially when they divide ethnic groups — when an artificial border is established dividing groups and families, making an unnatural divide, you have to face the consequences of the mess you make.

  • jh

    Let me put it this way. There seems to be a assumption that before the Spanisards arrived there were a race and culture called Mexicans. I know people don’t put it that way but in reality they are thinking that.

    Now of course this is not right. We see that similar ot the USA we have a place populated by many diverse Native American Peoples before the SPanish, Anglos, and French arrived.

    SO I guess that is my point. The people the Spaniards married into compromised a good many native people and different groups.

    I just find these homeland claims dubious. All this is based on the linkage to the very young Republic of Mexico after it got rid of Spanish rule in 1821? In that period between 1821 and the American Mexican War it was not like there were HUGE amounts of Mexicans in vast parts of the Southwest. They were there but lets face it most Mexican migrants are not descended from these folks.

    Si I guess that is why I find the homeland claim a bit farfetched. I am not sure how their claim is somehow superior to a Angloo that moved there if we are basing it on actions that occured between 1821 and 1853

    Now none of this is say I don’t think we need to apply Christian conepts to the border and immigration as a whole

    • jh — as I am pointing out, we are calling them Mexicans, looking at it only within the domain of the political state as it exists today. But that it is a diverse group is true, and it is because of that diversity we need to look beyond “Mexico” and into the area and land in question.

  • jh

    “But the issue still stands, who was in Arizona? It was Mexican before we took it over.”

    So because they wrestled effective control of it first from the Native Americans ( Apache and Pueblo) tha makes their claims superior.

    Now I undertand that all these borders issues world wide has a messy history. SOme grand some not os grand. However I mean A LOT OF WATER has passed unfer the bridge since 1853. So I am not sure I should be that concerned about the hisotry of the Border(or how it came to be) based on whose colonization polices were good or worse or more moral.

    I guess in the end (besides the National Embarrasament for such a young County) of losing all that land in Texas and the SOuth West I am just not sure people view these areas as the HOMELAND. Do people in the Yucatan think of Arizona as the homeland? Or New Mexico? I am doubtful. What is this yearning based on?

    I don’t think the current immigration problems have much to do with the Mess we made in the 1800’s That is why I am talking about where these Mexican Migrants are from (what States, what ethnic groups) and why the issue of Central American migration is in the mix. Columbian illegal migration has nothing to do with our actions in the 1800’s

    In other words lets say in Alternative History Mexico said the heck will all this. My Govt is BROKE. I will now Do the Texas and California Purchase and the USA can buy all this land.

    No war, no moderntalk of if the war was moral or not or just, no talk of the USA STOLE the land just a plain sale. Like the Louisiana Purchase

    We would be facing the same problems today I would believe

  • jh

    ” But that it is a diverse group is true, and it is because of that diversity we need to look beyond “Mexico” and into the area and land in question.”

    Well I agree with that. I mean in many ways is this issue different from Europe as we a GLOBAL migration from the SOuth to the North.

    What makes the Mexico situation frustrating is I am not sure why Mexico is facing some of the same challenges like Africa is as to development. I am not sure what wnet wrong along the way and why we are seeing this happen. Somethin had to go wrong because it seems Mexico should have developed more so are seeing all this migration

    • I mean in many ways is this issue different from Europe as we a GLOBAL migration from the SOuth to the North.

      LOL. This is funny.

      What makes the Mexico situation frustrating is I am not sure why Mexico is facing some of the same challenges like Africa is as to development.

      That is a good place to start. There are many factors. Some of it is due to the historical state in Mexico, with all kinds of greed and corruption involved in its running. Some of it is due, in more recent times, to the United States, and corporate control coming out of the United States, forcing Mexico into all kinds of unjust positions which makes it near impossible to get out of the debt it is in.

  • jh

    No tmeaning to hijack this thread but I loking for some information that is sort of related and if people can push me in the right directions I would appreciate it.

    What was the American Catholic Church’ view and policy on Illegal immigration in the 60’s

    If was the same as we had today how they deal with Cesar Chavez thoughts and actions on the issue.

    I am just curious. Did they have a more Chavez view at the time or a modern one. In fact were they siding with the farmers or the owners?

    I have always been interested to see if there was conflict and if os how that was handled. Diod they agree to disagree or were they were in agreement

  • digbydolben

    JH, you need to look at a New Mexican state-approved history book, as I have, and, probably, from a sociologist’s or anthropologist’s viewpoint.

    If you did, you would see that it is obvious that the Hispanic population of New Mexico, who date from BEFORE the United States of America was even a political concept, consider themselves to be a distinct Hispanic community, different from “Mexicans,” but very definitely tied to Mexico by bonds of faith, culture and language.

    And they very definitely feel offended by the exclusion of their cousins from the American community. I’ve listened to them express their frustration over this discrimination–their impression that it impacts upon them and their situations in society–and I’m absolutely sure that, if the Church in the Southwest tells them to disobey the laws of Arizona, they will do so, in the interests of cultural and religious solidarity.

  • Mike L

    I live in a Land Grant in New Mexico. For those of you who are not familiar with Land Grants, they are areas of land granted to Hispanic colonists by the King of Spain back in the 1500-1600. Mexico agreed to honor the Land Grants when it broke from Spain, and the United States agreed by treaty to honor the Land Grants when New Mexico was acquired from Mexico. In many ways history has not been kind to the Land Grants. Court Houses have burned with deeds and documents, the Spanish considered a Grand “going to the mountains” meant to the top, the U.S. reads as “going to the foot of>”

    Some of the Land Grants are only memories, the land being sold off, or lost as fees to lawyers, or for other reasons. Some like the one we live in have been divided by the heirs and made into private property no longer controlled as a Grant, and some maintain their original character. Some of the later are asking for, and may get the same status as reservations.

    My observation is that who these heirs consider themselves to be is pretty complex. First most of them will tell you they are “Spanishn-American” not Mexican. Be I have also noted that many consider themselves to be members of a pueblo first, then Spanish-American, etc. When dealing with Mexicans they will side against the Anglo, but within their own ranks I have heard bitter complaints about job losses and other problems with illegals. I think digbydolben is correct on one level, but there are a lot more levels that don’t make it into the text books, a lot of conflict of feeling.

    My wife and I have to laugh at times. One of our best friends in the Land Grant is very active in trying to get the land restored to the Land Grant and making it functional again. Which means we would have to leave, and we tease her about it quite often, that she is trying to throw us out, and I don’t think she would like to see us go. In the abstract she has one set of beliefs, in the practical she has another. This type of conflict runs through the whole culture.

    I will finish by saying that we love the people out here, we bask in the Catholic faith that permeates the culture even when they don’t attend Church. We love our Church, built in 1935 by the people on land donated by the people. I don’t know if any of this helps the discussion between HK and JH, but maybe it will give a bit of a different outlook on it.

    Blessings,

    Mike L

  • jh

    “I mean in many ways is this issue different from Europe as we a GLOBAL migration from the SOuth to the North.

    LOL. This is funny. ”

    Perhaps but people on all sides seem not to be looking at the example of Europe. Are there similarites are there differences. What are they doing can we learn? I am just curious

  • jh

    “If you did, you would see that it is obvious that the Hispanic population of New Mexico, who date from BEFORE the United States of America was even a political concept, consider themselves to be a distinct Hispanic community, different from “Mexicans,” but very definitely tied to Mexico by bonds of faith, culture and language.”

    Maybe I just get a sense this all very more complex and I am not sure how people in New Mexico of Hispanic/Spaniard heritage now give everyne from the poltical enity we know as a MExico a claim

    Just seems we are Really streatching here

  • Dave

    I think that we have to separate what is right under the law – which at times can be difficult to determine if we want to apply it in a consistent basis; from what we are called as Christians to do when we have migrants living in our neighborhoods, cities, etc.

    Do Mexicans have some special, historic right to cross freely into the U.S.? Do Cuban refugees in the U.S. have legal claims to the land in Cuba that they lost during or as a result of the revolution? Can we always apply the legal principals in a consistent way and still be equitable? I do not know the answers to those questions.

    Do I know what my Christian duty is when I encounter immigrants in my community? Can I apply those principals in a consistent way and still be equitable? Absolutely.

    I have found nothing in the Church’s documents that states emphatically that sovreign nations must open their borders to free and unrestrained immigration. I have found criticism both with respect to the causes of migration and with those who exploit it.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    There is alot to object to, but what is there for those with a duty to protect and secure the public to do?

    Is it moral or immoral for a government to pass laws to control immigration? Is it moral or immoral for the government to enforce such laws once passed?

    Does a government have any right to deport people who have entered the country illegally? Under what circumstances? Is a government morally obliged to give illegal immigrants amnesty?

    Is it moral or immoral to ask people to demonstrate or document they are in the country legally? How is this different in the USA from another foreign country’s government asking for papers (passport) to prove one is in their country legally?

    Is it moral or immoral for a government to deny free medical carre to illegal immigrants for non-emergency, non-life threatening situations?

    Is it moral or immoral to deny persons in the country illegally or their children from attending the free public school system?

    Tough questions all, but they deserve some level of answers, especially if we’re ready to boycott and demonstrate over one state’s proposed solution.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    It’s worth remembering the Church’s worthy teachings on welcoming the alien are not completely one-sided. The Catechism also says this:

    “Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” (2241)