Catholic bishop protests deportation by Mexican immigration authorities

Bishop Joseph Khawam Bishop Joseph Khawam is apostolic exarch for the Melkite Church in Venezuela and apostolic administrator of the Melkite Eparchy in Mexico. | Credit: Facebook screenshot/Bishop Joseph Khawam

A bishop of the Melkite rite, one of the more than 20 Eastern rites of the Catholic Church that are in communion with Rome, protested the mistreatment he says he received and his subsequent deportation after arriving at Mexico City International Airport.

Bishop Joseph Khawam, apostolic exarch for the Melkite Church in Venezuela and apostolic administrator of the Melkite Eparchy in Mexico, denounced that Mexican immigration authorities detained him for hours with illegal immigrants, confiscated his Vatican passport and his personal phone, and deported him to Venezuela from where he had flown to Mexico.

In a statement posted April 6 on Facebook and Instagram, the prelate of Syrian origin said he “deplores and denounces” what reportedly happened on the night of April 2-3 at the airport in Mexico’s capital city.

The statement said the Melkite bishop said that what happened to him is “a flagrant practice of racial discrimination and an insult to human dignity above all, given that his nationality of origin in the Vatican passport is Syrian and that he was treated by the authorities on this basis.”

Khawam said that what happened is “a violation of human rights and a violation of international conventions that regulate the matter.”

The prelate specified that this “is a great insult to the universal Church and the Church of Mexico in particular [in the legal capacity that he represents as apostolic administrator]” since he “was in his official clerical dress with the cross.”

In the statement, the Catholic bishop also charged that the authorities at the airport refused “to see all the documents and credentials that he carried and that accredited his legal identity as apostolic administrator in the Mexican Catholic Church.”

Khawam arrived in Mexico among other reasons to participate in the plenary assembly of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference that is being held from April 8–12.

The prelate, the statement noted, requested on several occasions that the authorities contact the apostolic nunciature in Mexico or Father Alfonso Serna, legal representative of the Meltkite Eparchy in Mexico, who was expecting him, “but the response to his request was rejected several times.”

The apostolic administrator of the Melkite Church in Mexico urged authorities to “provide a general explanation for this strange and reprehensible incident” and compensate him for the harm he suffered.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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