Catholic bishops vow to of­fer aid to refugees

Meet­ing in city, they say they’ll pray for Trump

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Jonathan Pitts Baltimore Sun re­porter Tim Pru­dente con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. jonathan.pitts@balt­sun.com

Un­cer­tainty over what to ex­pect from the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump hov­ered over the open­ing Mon­day of the Catholic bishops’ an­nual fall assem­bly in Baltimore.

Arch­bishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the pres­i­dent of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bishops, told the gath­er­ing he had writ­ten Trump to ask that he use his in­flu­ence to pro­mote both the pro­tec­tion of life and the preser­va­tion of hu­man dig­nity.

Bishop Euse­bio El­i­zondo of Seat­tle, chair­man of the bishops’ com­mit­tee on mi­gra­tion, con­grat­u­lated Trump on his vic­tory in last week’s elec­tion, of­fered “sup­port for all ef­forts to work to­gether for the com­mon good” and pledged to pray for the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

But Kurtz, Euse­bio and oth­ers also made clear that church lead­ers in­tend to con­tinue to of­fer suc­cor to im­mi­grants and refugees in the United States, what­ever their le­gal sta­tus, as part of their de­ter­mi­na­tion, on bib­li­cal grounds, to “wel­come the stranger.”

That re­sponse — which Pope Fran­cis has em­pha­sized from the be­gin­ning of his pa­pacy — would likely bring the church into con­flict with Trump, who cam­paigned on crit­i­cism of for­eign­ers and prom­ises to build a wall along the south­ern border and ban Mus­lims from en­try.

Trump told “60 Min­utes” on Sun­day that he plans to build the wall and to de­port 2 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion im­mi­grants here with­out le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion who have com­mit­ted crimes in the United States.

In re­marks to open the bishops’ assem­bly, Kurtz pledged sol­i­dar­ity with im­mi­grant fam­i­lies.

“Fam­i­lies will know that we carry them in our hearts as we en­gage the new ad­min­is­tra­tion in di­a­logue,” he said. “We are with you.” The gath­er­ing ap­plauded. El­i­zondo was more ex­plicit. “Serv­ing and wel­com­ing peo­ple flee­ing vi­o­lence and con­flict in var­i­ous re­gions of the world is part of our iden­tity as Catholics,” he said. “To­day, with more than 65 mil­lion peo­ple forcibly dis­placed from their homes, the need to wel­come refugees and pro­vide free­dom from per­se­cu­tion is more acute than ever, and our 80 dio­ce­ses across the coun­try are ea­ger to con­tinue this won­der­ful act of ac­com­pa­ni­ment born of our Chris­tian faith.”

El­i­zondo said he prays that the United States re­mains “a na­tion of hos­pi­tal­ity that treats oth­ers as we would like to be treated,” all “with­out sac­ri­fic­ing national se­cu­rity or Amer­i­can val­ues.”

Nearly 300 bishops have gath­ered in Baltimore for the assem­bly. They are sched­uled to­day to elect a new pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent and com­mit­tee chairs. Baltimore Arch­bishop Wil­liam E. Lori is a nom­i­nee.

The prelates cel­e­brated a Mass on Mon­day af­ter­noon at a pre­dom­i­nantly African-Amer­i­can church in West Baltimore.

Lori said St. Peter Claver Church was cho­sen to un­der­score the church’s con­cern for chal­lenges fac­ing in­ner cities.

He said parish­ioners helped clean the streets last year after the un­rest over the death of Fred­die Gray.

“This parish is a per­fect ex­am­ple of the church’s unique role and im­por­tance in com­mu­ni­ties like these around the coun­try,” he said.

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