The Spanish bishops have released a message for their nation's Day of the Immigrant and Refugee, which will be held Jan. 18, entitled "A Church without borders, a Mother for all."

Bishop Ciriaco Benavente Mateos of Albacete told CNA, "Today there is much talk about borders, and sometimes immigration is seen almost as an attack, but the theme of the day sums up the spirit of a Church without borders, a Church that is Mother and embraces all people, as did Jesus."

Bishop Benavente is president of the Spanish bishops' migration committee, and he noted that the flow of immigrants and how to regulate them are difficult problems to solve because "on the one hand entrance has to be regulated as a right of the state, but we need to understand that when immigration occurs because of a situation of profound need, it is not a whim."

Those who come "fleeing from the hunger that knows nor borders or limits" should be welcomed, he added.

Fr. Jose Luis Pinilla, S.J., director of the migration committee, said today's immigrants are more like refugees, and require greater assistance.

Spain is has the fifth largest number of illegal immigrants in Europe, he noted, and they need to be integrated and made a part of Spanish society.

In their statement, the bishops pointed to the "stimulating, luminous and prophetic" message that Pope Francis has sent to the Church inviting everyone to "contemplate Jesus" by reaching out "to the vulnerable and excluded and to recognize his suffering face in the victims of the new forms of poverty and slavery, to embrace his clear and forceful words: 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me'."

The phenomenon of immigration must be met "with the globalization of charity and cooperation," the bishops said, which entails "greater effort to create more humane living conditions in their countries of origin and a progressive lessening of the causes that lead to migration, which demand action."

To this end, "A more just and equitable economic and financial order must be developed worldwide," they stated.