Church leaders cannot be indifferent to the plight of immigrants, and it is "inexcusable" not to promote cooperation between a host nation and countries of origin, Pope Francis told bishops from the Dominican Republic.
"It is important to integrate immigrants into society and to welcome them in the church community," he said May 28.
The bishops were making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican, meeting the pope and Vatican officials to report on the situations in their dioceses.
Noting the Dominican Republic each year receives a large influx of immigrants, especially Haitians trying to escape poverty, the pope told the bishops that immigrants need pastoral and charitable care.
Such attention "leaves no room for the indifference of church clergy," he said, adding that it was "inexcusable to not promote initiatives of fraternity and peace between both nations," which exist on the same Caribbean island.
The church needs to work with government authorities in order to find "solutions of solidarity" for those who lack the proper documents or are denied their basic rights, he said.
The bishops also must be at the forefront in facing other serious problems today like the drug trade, human trafficking, corruption, domestic violence, the abuse and exploitation of children and social insecurity, the pope said.
"Everything the mother church does must seek out and care for the wellbeing of those less fortunate," he said. Not only does this help build up the kingdom of God, it also lends more "credibility to the church and weight to the voice of her priests."
The pope told the bishops to help defend their priests "from the wolves that also attack the shepherds." He said being dedicated to the poor and needy will help them "overcome the worldly tendency toward mediocrity."
In the Dominican Republic, as elsewhere, he said, marriage and the family are experiencing "a serious cultural crisis," which does not mean those institutions have become less important, but rather that the need for them is greater.
The church must continue to show the beauty of Christian marriage and help families experience forgiveness, peace and harmony, especially during the upcoming Year of Mercy, he said.
He also underlined the importance of families being able to have their children receive instruction in their faith at school, recognizing a trend in which schools replace religion class with "multi-confessional" instruction or a course on ethics and religious culture.
Lastly, he urged the bishops to help safeguard the environment.
People's relationship with nature "must not be governed by greed, manipulation or excessive exploitation," but must seek a harmonious balance between creatures and creation.