Catholics must bridge political divide on refugee crisis, cardinal says

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration said on Sept. 14 that Catholics "are called to overcome the partisan divides that separate us" on migration issues.

Instead, Catholics must focus "on the moral teachings of the church that will help us build a vibrant public square," said Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle.

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He said an upcoming summit on migration issues to be held at the United Nations on Sept. 19 "will highlight the need for shared responsibility by the international community to address migration related crises around the world."

"This provides an opportunity for the bishops to bring attention to their long-standing teachings on migration, which are rooted in the Gospel message of welcome and grounded in Catholic social teaching," Bishop Elizondo said.

He was referring to a summit level meeting of heads of state and government officials being convened by the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the large movement of refugees and migrants in the world today. It will be the first U.N. summit of its kind.

In his statement, Bishop Elizondo also quoted from Pope Francis' address to Congress, in which the pontiff called on all Americans to "seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities."

The pope's words "are prescient to our situation today, in which we find ourselves immersed in an environment that lays bare divisions and disagreements that undermine solidarity and authentic community," the bishop said.

The U.S. bishops "recognize the responsibility of nations to control their borders," Bishop Elizondo said.

"Maintaining secure and reliable procedures that effectively manage the flow of people entering the United States is an important component of our immigration system," he explained. "In addition, we will continue to underscore the right of people to migrate who are unable to find the means to support themselves and their families in their homeland, or who are fleeing persecution and violence. Sovereign nations should find a way to accommodate this right."

He also said it not enough to welcome migrants "into our communities."

Bishop Elizondo called on the nation's political and religious leaders to "work with the leaders of other countries to help create the conditions so people do not feel compelled to migrate in the first place."

"We must promote the common good everywhere, so that people in all nations can live a life where their human dignity is protected," he said, urging those leaders to "nurture a culture that prioritizes family unity and which rejects situations where families are forced apart because economic opportunities are not available where they live."

"We must seek a world in which everyone has access to the economic, political and social opportunities to live in freedom and dignity, and to achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts," Bishop Elizondo added.

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