From the Cardinal: God Walks with His People| June 28, 2024

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Vol. 5. No. 20 

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In his Message for the 2024 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be observed on September 29 (see below), Pope Francis observes that “Emphasizing the synodal dimension [of Church life] allows the Church to rediscover its itinerant nature, as the People of God journeying through history on pilgrimage, “migrating,” we could say, toward the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Lumen Gentium, 49).”

Church teaching on migration is grounded in our absolute conviction that every human person—regardless of his or her race, creed, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of origin or social and economic standing—is made in the divine image and likeness, and, therefore, is our sister or brother in the one family of God.

We welcome all, respect all, and strive to love all as members of God’s family. We refuse to reject anyone out of hand, and we insist that all who come to us (legally or illegally) must be treated with the courtesy we would extend to Christ himself.

In addition, we believe that all of us are immigrants. That is, we are all pilgrims who seek God no matter where we are or what our circumstances may be. As strangers and sojourners ourselves, we have no right to look down on or act superior toward those who seek refuge and a better life among us.

This insistence on human dignity and fair treatment for our fellow pilgrims does not mean that we fail to recognize the need for immigration policies that are ordered, legal and respectful of our nation’s right to maintain its borders.

On the contrary, we believe that the brokenness of our current system of immigration here in the United States of America contributes directly to the inhumane treatment of many immigrants and their families.

We therefore strongly urge our elected officials, and those who are candidates for public office, to “fix a broken immigration system and … include a broad and fair legalization program with a path to citizenship; a work program with worker protections and just wages; family reunification policies; access to legal protections, which include due process procedures; refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration.” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” #81)

We bishops know that these recommendations are not popular with many members of our community, who fear that their jobs are being threatened by illegal immigrants.

We also know that many argue that the current situation permits (even encourages) all kinds of trafficking that are both immoral and dangerous. We strongly urge that our leaders enact and enforce comprehensive reform measures that will fix these problems without punishing those whose only desire is a better life for themselves and their families.

Finally, we insist on the right to provide the Church’s pastoral care to all immigrants regardless of their legal status. One of the hallmarks of our religious freedom is the ability to be Christ for others, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Pope Francis has repeatedly urged us to step outside our comfort zones to bring the Gospel to those on “the peripheries,” the margins, of our society. The Holy Father has also challenged us to build bridges among nations and peoples in order to clearly demonstrate our unity and solidarity with all humankind.

Which candidates for public office, and which political parties, stand for an end to the current broken system? Which will set aside rhetoric and empty promises in order to effect real, lasting change for the good of all?

During the elections next fall, it is vitally important that we elect those leaders who will truly welcome our sisters and brothers in Christ and achieve genuine reform. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, guide us! 

Sincerely yours in Christ the Redeemer, 

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. 
Archbishop of Newark  

A Message from Pope Francis: Words of Challenge and Hope  

(Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 110th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2024. Rome, Saint John Lateran, 24 May 2024, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians)

Dear brothers and sisters!

Last 29 October marked the conclusion of the First Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This session allowed us to deepen our understanding of synodality as part of the Church’s fundamental vocation. “Synodality is mainly presented as a joint journey of the People of God and as a fruitful dialogue between the charisms and ministries at the service of the coming of the Kingdom” (Synthesis Report, Introduction).

Emphasizing the synodal dimension allows the Church to rediscover its itinerant nature, as the People of God journeying through history on pilgrimage, “migrating”, we could say, toward the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Lumen Gentium, 49). The biblical narrative of Exodus, depicting the Israelites on their way to the promised land, naturally comes to mind: a long journey from slavery to freedom prefiguring the Church’s journey toward her final encounter with the Lord.

Likewise, it is possible to see in the migrants of our time, as in those of every age, a living image of God’s people on their way to the eternal homeland. Their journeys of hope remind us that “our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).

The images of the biblical exodus and of migrants share several similarities. Like the people of Israel in the time of Moses, migrants often flee from oppression, abuse, insecurity, discrimination, and lack of opportunities for development. Similar to the Jews in the desert, migrants encounter many obstacles in their path: they are tried by thirst and hunger; they are exhausted by toil and disease; they are tempted by despair.

Yet the fundamental reality of the Exodus, of every exodus, is that God precedes and accompanies his people and all his children in every time and place. God’s presence in the midst of the people is a certainty of salvation history: “The Lord your God goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you” (Deut 31:6). For the people who came out of Egypt, this presence manifested itself in different forms: a pillar of cloud and fire showing and illuminating the way (cf. Ex 13:21), the meeting tent that protected the ark of the covenant, making God’s closeness tangible (cf. Ex 33:7), the pole with the bronze serpent assuring divine protection (cf. Nm 21:8-9), manna and water (cf. Ex 16-17) as God’s gifts to the hungry and thirsty people. The tent is a form of presence especially dear to the Lord. During David’s reign, God chose to dwell in a tent, not a temple, so that he could walk with his people, “from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling” (1 Chr 17:5).

Many migrants experience God as their traveling companion, guide and anchor of salvation. They entrust themselves to him before setting out and seeking him in times of need. In him, they find consolation in moments of discouragement. Thanks to him, there are good Samaritans along the way. In prayer, they confide their hopes to him. How many Bibles, copies of the Gospels, prayer books and rosaries accompany migrants on their journeys across deserts, rivers, seas and the borders of every continent!

God not only walks with his people, but also within them, in the sense that he identifies himself with men and women on their journey through history, particularly with the least, the poor and the marginalized. In this we see an extension of the mystery of the Incarnation.

For this reason, the encounter with the migrant, as with every brother and sister in need, “is also an encounter with Christ. He himself said so. It is he who knocks on our door, hungry, thirsty, an outsider, naked, sick and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted” (Homily, Mass with Participants in the “Free from Fear” Meeting, Sacrofano, 15 February 2019). The final judgment in Matthew 25 leaves no doubt: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (v. 35); and again “truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me” (v. 40). Every encounter along the way represents an opportunity to meet the Lord; it is an occasion charged with salvation, because Jesus is present in the sister or brother in need of our help. In this sense, the poor save us, because they enable us to encounter the face of the Lord (cf. Message for the Third World Day of the Poor, 17 November 2019).

My Prayer for You  

Please join me in praying these words of Pope Francis:

Dear brothers and sisters, let us unite in prayer for all those who have had to leave their land in search of dignified living conditions. May we journey together with them, be “synodal” together, and entrust them, as well as the forthcoming Synod Assembly, “to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a sign of sure hope and consolation to the faithful People of God as they continue their journey.”

God, Almighty Father,
we are your pilgrim Church
journeying towards the Kingdom of heaven.
We live in our homeland,
but as if we were foreigners.
Every foreign place is our home,
yet every native land is foreign to us.

Though we live on earth,
our true citizenship is in heaven.
Do not let us become possessive
of the portion of the world
you have given us as a temporary home.

Help us to keep walking,
together with our migrant brothers and sisters,
toward the eternal dwelling you have prepared for us.
Open our eyes and our hearts
so that every encounter with those in need
becomes an encounter with Jesus, your Son and our Lord.