San Antonio Archbishop says human dignity, families are at heart of immigration debate

.- Archbishop José Gomez of San Antonio took his strongest public stand on immigration during Monday's downtown demonstration against the current bill that would criminalize immigrants.

"We cannot pass a law that makes criminals out of 11 to 12 million people," he told a cheering crowd of hundreds at Milam Park, reported the San Antonio Express-News. "We must recognize Jesus in the face of all immigrants."

Archbishop Gomez compared the cries of the marchers with the crowds who greeted Jesus as he arrived in Jerusalem. He reminded the people that this is Holy Week, the archbishop said the cry today is: "Hosanna! Save us from the pain of injustice."

"Our Catholic tradition has a profound respect for civil law," Fr. Virgil Elizondo a world authority on Hispanic Catholicism told the Express-News. "But it also recognizes the fundamental right the hungry and starving have to migrate."

Fr. Elizondo questioned charges that immigrants were criminals. "Some say this is disrespect for the law. That's not it at all," he said. "This is not about violating civil laws, it is about human rights."

He explained that there is a religious foundation for the demonstrations in Matthew 25, which says that those who welcome the stranger will go to heaven.

The archbishop, speaking in English and Spanish, also cited Matthew 25, reminding listeners that Jesus said that when you do something for the least of the people, you are doing it to him.

When Gomez concluded by reciting the marchers' popular chant: "Si, se puede," or "Yes, we can," the crowd responded enthusiastically: "Viva el arzobispo!" or "Long live the archbishop!"

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