Although the statement has been in the works for months, it was released on Jan. 31 with the first week of February being World Interfaith Harmony Week, according to the United Nations General Assembly.
It also came days after U.S. President Donald Trump issued executive orders to halt the refugee admissions program for 120 days, and to stop entry for 90 of those coming from seven countries deemed to be compromised by terrorism – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya. Syrian refugees were barred indefinitely from entering the country.
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, Rabbi Serotta said, "one must not oppress the non-citizen."
"This statement does insist that our religious communities be free to speak and act on the concerns of our consciences," he said. "Many of the communities in front of you today, for example, have already spoken out from their faith's perspectives concerning the closing of our country's borders to refugees fleeing persecution."
"The statement makes clear our neighbors are people we care about deeply, no matter where they're from."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops "issued a very strong statement" in support of refugees looking to resettle, Cardinal Wuerl noted. The cardinal spoke about it on his own as well.
"We want to always be there for people who are persecuted," he said.
"It was some of the minority communities, including Christian communities, that were designated as the object of genocide, and we want to be welcoming everybody who is fleeing persecution here to our country," he said, referring to last year's designation for Yazidis, Christians, and Shi'a Muslims as victims of genocide by ISIS.
Cardinal Wuerl also said he hoped for dialogue between the new Trump administration and the faith leaders.
"We are waiting ourselves to see what lines of communication will be open," he said. "We will be announcing our solidarity and our openness to be of service to the community as the transition is taking place."
"We're ready for that conversation," he said.
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