Bishop of Phoenix looks to the saints in immigration reform debate

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix.
Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix.


Calling for immigration reform, Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmsted has written that Americans should remember the saints’ examples of love during the “highly charged” emotional debate over the Arizona immigration bill. He urged that Catholics not let the bonds of fraternal love be broken by concerns about immigration status.

Bishop Olmsted’s column on the Arizona law SB 1070 would normally have been published in The Catholic Sun on May 20. A source with the diocese told CNA the bishop did not want to wait for it to be published in print and had it published on the internet.

In his column, the bishop acknowledged the duty of civil authority to regulate immigration and the duty of all people to obey the law. However, he added, “the fact that our current immigration system is broken and in need of reform is abundantly clear.”

“No one’s dignity is served well by our current system.”

The Bishop of Phoenix joined his fellow U.S. bishops in urging Congress and President Obama to address this “complex but important issue” by passing federal comprehensive immigration reform legislation “as soon as possible.”

“Without immediate action by the federal government, good people on all sides of this issue will continue to suffer needlessly,” he explained.

Bishop Olmsted’s comments on immigration came in the context of a reflection on Jesus’ commandment “love one another.”

He explained his primary concern is the salvation of each person’s soul among those entrusted to his care. The poor and the immigrant are often the most vulnerable and must be “of special concern” for Christians, the Phoenix bishop said.

He noted the long history of Christian saints and their examples in living out Jesus' commandment to love one another. St. Stephen forgave those who killed him, praying “Father do not hold this sin against them!” Blessed Mother Teresa spent her life in the service of the poor and sick, while St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, an immigrant in the United States, served poor immigrants by establishing schools, hospitals and orphanages.

“Ours is indeed a history of witnessing boldly to the love of Christ for the salvation of the world,” the bishop wrote.

He pointed to the examples of the saints, who put dedication to love above “their human nature” and often “even above their own needs.”

This “call to love” should be remembered in light of the controversy over immigration, he wrote.

“The Church holds out hope and offers her fervent prayer that calm and reasonable minds will prevail and a just solution will be found that will benefit all of God’s children.”

Christian believers are given “the duty and the grace” of being united in love in “a visible way” with the immigrant, the unborn and all who are marginalized.

This unity is not possible, “humanly speaking,” but nothing is impossible for God, Bishop Olmsted taught. The love of Christ impels Christians and unites the Catholic community in “a bond of fraternal love that must not be broken by any earthly power and certainly not by one’s immigration status.”

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