Pittsburgh, Pa., Jul 23, 2014 / 16:20 pm
Answering the needs of refugee migrants is one component of a truly pro-life view, said a U.S. bishop, announcing a new initiative to aid children who have fled Central America for the United States.
"The Catholic Church responds to humanitarian crises here at home and all across the world because we are pro-life," said Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh.
"Being pro-life requires we protect and care for vulnerable persons from conception to natural death," he emphasized in a July 19 statement.
The bishop announced that Holy Family Institute, a ministry of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, in Emsworth, Pa., will be offering aid to young children fleeing Central America.
He explained that the diocese respects the law and right of nations to have secure borders and recognizes that "the root causes of why people are fleeing their homelands must be addressed by the international community."
However, he said, the Church's pro-life stance has implications for how the faithful are called to respond to the needy children in front of them.
"Whether they are traveling because of poverty, or violence, or with the hope of reuniting with relatives on the other side of the border, followers of Jesus are called to protect these children and help them because they are very vulnerable and defenseless against any abuse or misfortune," Bishop Zubik said.
"You probably recall that Holy Family Institute performed a similar ministry for many Haitian children after the devastating earthquake in that country. This is exactly the same kind of humanitarian response."
The bishop's comments come amid heated public debate surrounding the treatment of unaccompanied child migrants to the U.S., whose numbers have doubled in the past year. Public officials disagree on how to respond to the children, many of whom are fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Sister Linda Yankoski, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, heads the Holy Family Institute. She explained to CNA that aiding the migrant children fits in with the sisters' mission of charity and justice.
"We have agreed to take in the most vulnerable, the very young children under the age of 12 who make up about 20 percent of the migrating children," she explained.
"Many of these children are fleeing violent situations and have endured a long and dangerous journey."
The children will be provided with temporary food, clothing, housing, counseling, and recreation, Sr. Yankoski said. Eventually, they will be placed in the homes of relatives or sponsors throughout the country.
This aid will be provided for about 30 days, until the children receive a hearing date which will determine if they fit the criteria of refugees fleeing grave danger.
In light of the "humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children arriving at the US-Mexican border," Holy Family Institute seeks to offer a response of "respect, care and compassion," Sr. Yankoski said.
"It is a painful reality that poverty, greed, and selfishness often lead to injustices in the world that cause some to turn to isolationism," she commented.
"Holy Family Institute hopes to humbly be among those looking for ways to build up the kingdom of God on earth."