Archbishop John C. Wester on the Executive Orders
Relating to Immigrants and Refugees
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Friday, February 3, 2017— IMMEDIATE RELEASE— Archbishop John C. Wester’s Statement on the Executive Orders Relating to Immigrants and Refugees:
In light of recent Executive Actions by President Trump, I am deeply concerned for many of our people in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and beyond who feel afraid and isolated. Indeed, during these unsettled times, there are quite a few of us who can easily give into the feeling that we are not safe and that we are in imminent danger from terrorists and other extremists. As a pastor, I believe that it is important to recognize and distinguish between real threats that should concern us and unreal threats that provoke fear because of rhetoric designed to play upon our anxieties as a society. Jesus offers us an alternative: to act out of love and not out of fear.
It seems to me that the recent Executive Actions imply that we should be afraid of those coming to the United States, even though we have a rich history of welcoming those who have made our country great over the last two centuries. The truth is that our country has not experienced an act of foreign terrorism since the 9/11 attacks, due in no small part to the rigorous, lengthy and effective security measures put in place for screening and vetting individuals and families fleeing violence and persecution. We must not believe the narrative that we are in danger from those who come to our shores after having been vetted properly and appropriately. In my view, such fear is politically motivated and limits our freedom to act in a more positive, Christ-like manner. I am fully aware of the terrible tragedies that we have witnessed in our country in the last few years. God weeps with us when we experience violence in San Bernardino, Orlando, Charleston, Boston and Newtown or even in our own families. These atrocities separate us, and tear at the heart of who we are as one human family. Yet, they do not define us. Rather, we must not give in to unsubstantiated fear but hear our Lord’s call to respond with love and compassion to those whose fear is genuine and all too well grounded in reality.
Many are experiencing horrific suffering in places like Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan where wars, terror and violence are common fare. The image of the body of the 3-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy comes to mind. Little Aylan Kurdi drowned and washed ashore in Turkey as his family escaped extreme violence in Syria, making their way to Canada. Our news media have shown us so many more images of unbelievable hardship that it is easy to become numb to such suffering. These are genuine fears; real threats that demand a response from us as followers of Christ. Many in our own Archdiocese of Santa Fe are now living with the real fear of being torn from the country where they finally found relief from persecution and the threat of death – this is the fear that demands a legitimate response from us. We have a moral obligation to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are legitimately afraid of separation from other family members by Executive Orders that have been ill conceived and poorly executed.
It is possible and necessary to stay true to our American values and to remember that welcoming the stranger and staying safe within our homeland are not situations that are mutually exclusive; we can do both—keep our nation safe and welcome and resettle immigrants and refugees who are fleeing extreme violence.
When fear rules, it leads to erosion of the values of freedom, democracy, welcome and the common good that are the bedrock of our country. For people of faith, fear has no place in a country such as ours. As Jesus states in the Gospel of Mark, “Fear is useless; what is needed is faith (Mark 5:36).” Pope Francis reminds us that we “are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.” History has shown that unscrupulous dictators and tyrants use fear for their own benefit to control and manipulate people at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.
Our country has potent and painful reminders of what happens when fear rules. For example, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the 1939 tragedy of the S.S St. Louis in which 937 German Jews were denied entry to the U.S., and most recently, the post 9/11 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) requiring “extreme vetting” and the discriminatory targeting of Muslims. Our experience tells us that such programs are ill advised and ineffectual, and fail to honor the basic human dignity of those in need. These responses are based in fear. Our Lord himself tells us that fear is useless, that what is most important is love, compassion, and God’s enduring mercy.
America is a nation of immigrants who have contributed much to our country and to the Catholic Church in the United States. Most of us have ancestors who were once strangers to these shores, and who came to America seeking opportunity for a better life. We owe a debt of gratitude for their struggle, their sacrifice and their hard work. As Catholics, we are proud of the first Catholic immigrants who came in the 1500’s. Yes, there is history of violent encounter in those first contacts, and I hope we have learned from those darker moments and atoned for those transgressions.
However, we need not be fearful of newcomers for they are coming with the same hopes and dreams, for themselves and their children, as our ancestors carried with them when they arrived in this country. Immigrants and refugees of all cultures and religious backgrounds are part of the strong fabric of our country. It is patriotic to welcome them. It is never morally correct to target a religious group. Our country has been richly blessed by the contributions of Muslims and so many other faiths in our great land. Catholic Social teaching reminds us of the moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us; we cannot allow one population to become scapegoats for our country’s problems.
As Catholics in New Mexico, we have the opportunity to stand with people of all faiths and of all countries as we journey with them. Our great Seal of New Mexico depicts an American Bald Eagle shielding a Mexican Eagle under its wings. This symbol embraces the complex history and relationship between Mexico and New Mexico. As New Mexicans, we know friendship, cooperation and solidarity with our neighbors. It is part of who we are. Welcoming immigrants and resettling refugees who are fleeing violence is part of the fabric of American democracy.
We are called to reach out to those on the margins. We stand with them and honor the human dignity of all people. As followers of Christ, we follow Jesus’ way of the cross, through life, death and the promise of new life in resurrection. Jesus demands that we not think of ourselves first but for the needs and cries of the poor, the refugee and those forced to migrate. We walk together in hope and courage knowing we are all part of one human family.
I want to remind us of what Pope Francis stated in his address to Congress in 2015:
Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us 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 yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
I urge all Catholics and people of good will to join me in responding to a request from the Franciscans to pray for peace in Syria by praying daily the beloved St. Francis’ Prayer for Peace:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred let me so love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen.
To keep up with the latest news from the Archdiocese of Santa, please visit our website www.archdiosf.org, like us on Facebook (Archdiocese Santa Fe Official) and follow us on Twitter (@ASFOfficial).
We are delighted to share that we are in our new building, Casa de Corazon, where we are able to do more, serve more and create hope for more clients and their families than ever before!
We’ve already seen a 50% increase in participants in our Children’s Learning Center and our Adult Education Center is helping more adults with GED, ESL and Civics classes.
But these are challenging times for local, state and national budgets, with revenue shortfalls making the headlines almost daily. And rumors abound regarding the political landscape, leaving those we serve wondering what the future holds for them.
With your continued support, Catholic Charities will remain strong, viable and available for the most vulnerable in our community. Please remember us as you make your yearly giving budget.
We thank all of our donors for their generosity and we welcome you to call us at (505) 724-4693 to schedule a visit to the house that hope and love built.
Over the past few days, the President has issued a number of orders restricting access to the United States by persons of the Islamic Faith and directing planning for the construction of a southern border barrier (often referred to as the “wall”). He has specifically banned entrance for citizens seeking refuge from several Muslim majority countries and suspended for 120 days, the resettlement of persons and families classified as refugees by both the United Nations and United States’ law.
Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese joins with our Catholic Bishops in the United States, Catholic Charities USA, and with many of our sister Catholic Charities agencies throughout the United States in opposition to these Executive Orders and calls for immediate reversal of them by the President and his Administration. Whether these orders are generated in true concern for the security and welfare of American citizens or not does not matter; they do not fulfill that mission and only serve to alienate and distant us from our responsibilities in the global community.
Christ is in All Who Seek Harmony & Peace
Throughout turbulent times in world history, various Catholic role models arose to demonstrate how we should confront our fears and embrace the Gospel of the Lord to guide us in our actions and words. The Holy Family itself demonstrated that the refugee needs to be welcomed not with fear but compassion as they demonstrated in their flight from Herod with the infant Christ. Christ is in all who seek harmony and peace.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.” (Gospel of Matthew)
Interfaith Dialogue in the Catholic Tradition
St. Francis of Assisi set out to the lands of Islam with the intention to engage in dialogue and converting them to Catholicism. However, upon arrival and the engagement with our Islamic Brethren, he developed a better understanding and some say respect for their beliefs and interpretation of scripture. Certainly, St. Francis shared his faith and belief in the Trinity. He was not so successful in converting. However, his engagement rooted in dignity and respect serves as a model of behavior today.
Lawrence Cunningham (2006) “…I think that Francis is a model in the sense he comes nonviolently, nonbelligerently and honestly. I think interreligious dialogue can only function effectively if people say truthfully and nonbelligerently what they believe and why. Also, Francis comes as a genuine contemplative; he speaks not only from intellectual knowledge but deep spiritual experience. I think that's a good model for dialogue with believers of any religious tradition.”
Let Not History Repeat
In the middle of the 20th Century, the nations of the world were almost entirely engulfed in World War Two. Some draw very real parallels of the situation today with the basic failure of humanity during that time to maintain respect for the inherent existence of human dignity in all people. Where St. Francis was conscious of the need for dialogue and that physical conflict was not an answer, this philosophy escaped too much of humanity collectively and individual’s consciousness in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Our failure to recognize St. Francis’ philosophy resulted in the deaths of over 26 million human beings by either genocide or warfare.
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe demonstrated the ultimate respect for human life by volunteering to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz. As a Catholic, the Friar demonstrated that the preservation of another’s life, of a nonbeliever by surrendering yours not to the Nazis, but to Christ, tells us the refugee or migrant newcomer to our communities regardless of nationality or religion share the same place as we do in the eyes of Christ. Our dignity, our value is the same as we are all people of God and part of the grand creation of the Father. We as a nation will be judged by our actions towards such newcomers and the devaluation and attempts to reduce their dignity will not fare well for us as a nation or individuals.
While the President and his Administration were drafting and signing the recent Executive Orders restricting entrance to the United States and lowering the number of persons to be settled in this federal fiscal year to 50,000 from 110,000, Pope Francis was stating his support for the migrant and fleeing refugees. While blessing a sculpture to be placed in the port of the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa, the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands fleeing poverty and violence, he was also giving physical substance to his words and prayers.
For more on the stance of our Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-026.cfm
- A message from Jim Gannon, CEO/Executive Director of Catholic Charities
Click the link for the full video on KOAT channel 7
In the Leaders Summit on Refugees this week, President Obama shared that letter with the world leaders that had gathered together to discuss what they could do to solve the global refugee crisis.
The humanity that a young child can display, who hasn’t learned to be cynical, or suspicious, or fearful of other people because of where they’re from, or how they look, or how they pray, and who just understands the notion of treating somebody that is like him with compassion, with kindness -- we can all learn from Alex.
Our Center for Self-Sufficiency & Housing Assistance's Rental Assistance Program (RAP) -- which provides case management and rental assistance for those who are behind on rent or are experiencing homelessness -- is opening the phone lines for enrollment on Friday, September 23rd.
This program serves Bernalillo or Sandoval County residents that are currently being evicted from their apartments or homeless. Individuals must meet additional qualifying criteria, as outlined in our RAP Program flyer below.
To receive a phone screening, interested individuals should call (505) 724-4611 at 8am (MST) o’clock on September 23rd and leave their name and phone number, as clearly as possible, on our answering machine. Within 1 to 2 weeks, our staff will call back for a pre-screening over the phone to determine eligibility.
August means many things but for many it is the “unofficial” end of summer as the school year begins. Catholic Charities has been busy over the summer supporting newly arrived refugees and homeless families that enter our Self-Sufficiency program. Traditionally, we support the children of our families by providing a backpack stuffed with much needed school supplies.
Every parent and grandparent knows how expensive all these supplies can be. From calculators to binders, these items quickly add up! Our families are on a very tight and limited budget, Catholic Charities finds that by providing these needed school supplies, families can focus on paying their other bills and then experience the blessing of sending their children off to school ready to learn with confidence and pride.
We would like to thank St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, Our Lady of Annunciation Parish and the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in Los Lunas for their kindness and generosity. Fr. Tien-Tri Nguyen, Pastor at St. Jude Thaddeus, went out of his way to coordinate the delivery of 70 backpacks directly to Catholic Charities. Their parish youth group, coordinated by Lori Ortiz, helped to collect and sort the needed school items. Our Lady of Annunciation Parish had the Catholic Charities truck on site over the weekend. Parishioners brought school items to Mass over the weekend and loaded up the truck for a special delivery. After receiving a call to support newly arrived refugees, we were contacted by the LDS Church in Los Lunas who wanted to support the back to school drive. With our wish list in hand, the LDS women’s group set out to find the needed items. Last Friday, boxes of school supplies were delivered just in time for our back pack extravaganza.
Our gratitude continues with our amazing volunteers and St. Pius students who helped us to sort, organize and create a special backpack for each child. To learn more about the back to school drive and how to support families in our community, please contact Kathy Freeze, Faith and Community Liaison, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 505-724-4698.