American bishops will gather in Arizona at the end of March to tour the U.S.-Mexico border and offer a Mass in memory of migrant persons who have died trying to gain entry into the United States.
“We exhibit our own indifference when we minimize or ignore this suffering and death, as if these people are not worth our attention. It degrades us as a nation,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration in a March 6 statement.
“Hopefully by highlighting the harsh impact the system has on our fellow human beings, our elected officials will be moved to reform it.”
The March 30-April 1 trip will place an emphasis on the suffering of those trying to cross the border from Mexico to the United States, and pray for those who have died while trying to navigate a immigration system critics from both political parties have called confusing, inefficient and “broken.”
Bishop Elizondo will be joined by other bishops on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, including Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, and bishops from border states, including the host, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson.
The delegation will meet in Nogales, Ariz. and will celebrate Mass for nearly 6,000 people who have died while crossing the border since 1998 on April 1, 2014.
“What we fail to remember in this debate is the human aspect of immigration – that immigration is primarily about human beings, not economic or social issues,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo.
“Those who have died – and those deported each day – have the same value and innate God-given dignity as all persons, yet we ignore their suffering and their deaths,” he added.
The bishops likened the trip to a visit of the Pope to the Italian island of Lampedusa, which commemorated African immigrants who have died trying to reach Europe.
“The U.S.-Mexico border is our Lampedusa,” he explained. “Migrants in this hemisphere try to reach it, but often die in the attempt.”