Catholic bishops vow to offer aid to refugees
Meeting in city, they say they’ll pray for Trump
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.