St. Louis — v>In what he called a "pastoral statement on immigration and mercy," Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis said, "Our Catholic communities and public squares are replete with new faces of immigrant sisters and brothers who need our loving response."
He added, "As the local bishop and pastor of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I am aware of the painful stories of immigrants whose ongoing sufferings and sacrifices reveal to us the presence of Jesus crucified."
The statement was issued Oct. 12, the national Columbus Day holiday.
The Catholic "journey and pilgrim identity is marked by a profound commitment to serving those around us, especially the most vulnerable, the poor and the migrant," he said, adding that Catholics understand by serving "the least among us, we have touched the face of Christ."
Archbishop Carlson noted how "in our country, the church has been responsive to the waves of immigrants that have graced our American shores. The Irish, the German, the Italian, the Polish, and other European immigrants have found a generous hospitality in our Catholic churches and institutions."
He also said he is well aware of the complexities of working for immigration reform today.
"While I fully support the labor of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice for Immigrants Campaign, I do so knowing that for many, this public advocacy and work brings personal apprehensions and resistance. At the same time, I am grateful to Catholics and people of good will in the archdiocese who are reaching out to our immigrant communities."
As he listens to the national discussion on immigration, Archbishop Carlson said, "I am becoming increasingly concerned about the language and rhetoric of discrimination, hate and alienation. In my visits and conversations with our Hispanic sisters and brothers, in particular, I have heard how difficult, painful and divisive this rhetoric of hate has been, and how it is creating an atmosphere of anxiety, withdrawal and fear.
"For many of our immigrant Hispanic youth and young adults, this anti-immigrant atmosphere is also contributing to legislative initiatives that make it difficult for them to successfully contribute to the common good. At this time of uncertainty, our Hispanic families need to know that our Catholic community, both locally and nationally, is here to accompany and stand firmly with them," he said.
Archbishop Carlson added, "I recognize, too, that work on behalf of immigration reform can cultivate seeds of discord and division among our faithful when viewed independently of the light of faith."
However, "we stand on solid ground when our faith illumines our pastoral practice of respect for the human dignity of all persons and service for the common good. More than ever, our social, political and world reality urges us to engage this pastoral issue with evangelical justice and charity in our hearts," he said.
"Each one of us must find ways to engage and contribute to the humanitarian efforts that are responding to the migration and refugee crisis at hand," the archbishop said. "And as we strive to do our part, we recall the words of Pope Francis reminding us that our human efforts are never far from God: 'God is able to multiply our small gestures of solidarity and make us partakers of his gift.'"
Archbishop Carlson said," As we journey together and prepare for the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, may we recognize that we are strangers no longer and seek to bring to light God's mercy:"