Below is a letter written by Catholic Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Vatican City. Thanks to Eli S. McCarthy of Georgetown University for sending it to America.
The U.S. Bishops Conference has been meeting, discussing and advocating for the need for urgent attention to comprehensive immigration reform. As people of goodwill in the United States thoughtfully consider immigration reform, be aware that this divisive issue is a world-wide phenomenon. This important issue demands a thoughtful response from governments in an age of globalization. This past summer Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa here in Italy, where he met and prayed with undocumented immigrants who were trying to enter Europe via this Italian island, their landing point on perilous voyages from North Africa.
In Lampedusa, Pope Francis spoke out against what he termed the "globalization of indifference." Thousands of unnamed immigrants have drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to better their lives, yet during these years of death no one has provided a solution. Too few have proclaimed the urgency of seeking one. There is silence from those entrusted with political authority not just in Europe, but also in the African countries of origin of those who die at sea. One can speak of tangible indifference.
As legislators in the United States take on this important issue, I add my own voice in support of the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed by its former president, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Such a support is not an advocacy for open borders; for the church understands the legitimate security rights and even obligations of nations. But I do raise my voice, urging practical and humane immigration reform—in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere—that respects the inherent dignity of every human being. It is in difficult social issues such as this that our faith demands to stand up for life, especially when it is most vulnerable and most threatened by forces of death.
Our world has already experienced too much suffering in those who left everything with the hope of finding a better life. The deaths of North African undocumented immigrants in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the deaths of Asian undocumented immigrants in the waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, the deaths of Central and South American undocumented immigrants in Mexican territory, and the deaths of undocumented immigrants in the deserts of Arizona and Texas: all of them deserve a thoughtful, practical and sympathetic response from every civilized society.
The words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty are not words of indifference. They are the words of a people who care deeply: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe freely." I urge you during this critical time to stay true to your history and be faithful to the faith of your upbringing and let those words ring true.
Do not be conquered by indifference, our world cannot afford it!