In his latest column, Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann weighed in on the volatile national immigration debate, saying that Scripture exhorts faithful to welcome the stranger and the alien, not as an option--but as a responsibility.
The Archbishop wrote in regard to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Justice for Immigrants Campaign which advocates comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S.
Citing a joint pastoral letter drafted by the Bishops of the U.S. and Mexico in 2000 called, “Strangers No Longer: Together On a Journey of Hope,” Archbishop Naumann said that the Biblical Abraham himself as well as his descendents “knew what it was like to be strangers in a strange land.”
The document points out that “The key events in the history of the Chosen People of enslavement by the Egyptians and of liberation by God led to the commandments regarding strangers (Ex 23: 9; Lv 19: 33).”
“Israel’s conduct with the stranger” it continues, “is both an imitation of God and the primary, specific Old Testament manifestation of the great commandment to love one’s neighbor… the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan and widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.”
“So you, too,” scripture exhorts, “must befriend the alien, for you once were aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt”(Dt 10: 17-19).
Archbishop Naumann added that “During the Christmas season, we were reminded how Jesus, Mary and Joseph were migrants and refugees, having to flee their homeland to avoid the maniacal efforts of King Herod to kill Jesus.”
Likewise, “In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples when they welcome a stranger, they welcome him.”
In short, the Archbishop said that “For the American Catholic, being concerned about the plight of immigrants today is not just an option but a responsibility.”
Admitting his lack of “expertise or competence to design the precise solution for our current immigration challenges,” Archbishop Naumann said that he is “confident that if we — as Americans — set our minds and our hearts to the task, we will succeed in devising a solution that both protects our security and welcomes as many newcomers as possible who share our yearning for freedom and our desire to have the opportunity to work hard.”
Each immigrant and newcomer, he wrote, “possesses the image of God engraved on their heart. Each migrant is of such worth that Jesus Christ gave his life on Calvary for them.”
How then, the prelate closed his column, “can we ignore the plight of those who are so precious in the eyes of the Lord?”