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On Our Duty to Welcome the Stranger

Monday, March 20, 2017 10:03
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By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

For immigrants and refugees now in the United States, or who hope to come here in the near future, recent weeks have been a steady diet of anxiety and confusion. The legal struggle over travel bans on immigrants from various nations has disrupted the plans of thousands who seek to come here for all sorts of reasons, including escape from persecution and reunion with family members already here.

Stepped up detention and deportation efforts against undocumented persons have the potential of tearing families apart and traumatizing children caught in the middle. Parents have resorted to diversionary measures, taking different routes to work or school each day, avoiding any stores where police are often present, even changing their appearance or swapping cars to avoid being easily noticed.

We’ve seen both mass demonstrations of support for those adversely affected, and strengthened resolve by those who want tighter immigration restrictions. Good people—a lot of them—exist on both sides, and we need to resist the temptation to demonize the motives of those with whom we disagree. The ensuing polarization among the general populace has uncovered deep divisions among Catholics who find themselves at odds with family, friends, colleagues and fellow parishioners.

Immigration policy is complex. It involves many competing values, among them the duty of government to ensure the security of U.S. citizens and legal residents. That responsibility must be balanced with our country’s long history of welcoming newcomers, especially those fleeing persecution. The U.S. bishops have repeatedly called for deep immigration reform aimed at meeting both goals. We need to pray that our leaders exercise the good judgment needed to come to a reasonable solution to the current impasse, and soon.

But this week I want to speak about the ongoing commitment of our local Church to offering pastoral, legal and social service aid to immigrants and refugees in the Greater Philadelphia community. Our Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees coordinates a network of priest chaplains, religious sisters and lay leaders who provide for the spiritual and material needs of persons from places like Indonesia, Haiti, West Africa, Vietnam and Brazil.

Our ministry to Hispanic Catholics likewise provides support for Catholic immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America. These are faith communities that enrich the devotional life of our whole Archdiocese. We do and always will welcome all Catholics to worship and fellowship with us, regardless of their legal status. They’re our family in Jesus Christ, first and foremost, and being undocumented diminishes neither their dignity nor personhood.

Catholic Social Services (CSS) has for many years offered low-cost legal services to help immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers with document preparation and help with visas, permanent residency, work authorization, and citizenship. Their work has reunified thousands of families over the past four decades. Additionally, CSS had successfully administered a Refugee Resettlement Program in the past, and at the invitation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recently restarted an effort to help to refugee families with housing, job opportunities, educational placement for children, and medical services. Under a contract with the U.S. State Department through the USCCB, four new staffers were hired to begin receiving referrals from places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and even Syria.

Actions of the Trump administration have frozen those efforts for now. But CSS has retained their new staffers by redeploying them to work more closely with immigrants and refugees already here who can benefit from the services they offer.

The USCCB has also provided a grant under its Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) initiative. It’s being used to build an informal coalition of archdiocesan resources, parish-based groups and independent Catholic organizations engaged in helping immigrants and refugees with supportive services. Collaborative efforts have grown across the region. These offer training to both documented and undocumented immigrants about their rights under the law.

This St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, is a good time to remember that Catholics originally came to this country as poor, often non-English-speaking immigrants seeking a better future. Philadelphia became the adopted home of a German immigrant priest who became our city’s bishop and later saint, John Neumann. As immigrants, Catholics were the target of a bigoted Nativist movement whose adherents torched Catholic churches in urban areas all along the East Coast. For exactly this reason, our cathedral, built during that turbulent time, has its only stained glass windows placed unusually high—above the reach of potential fire bombs.

As a Church that herself bore the cross of hatred toward immigrants, our Catholic past is a compelling reason to welcome the immigrants and refugees among us today. These persons and families need our help. They are not strangers but friends. And how we treat them will prove or disprove whether we take our Christian discipleship seriously.


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  • Rockledge

    When someone comes to my house, they are on my property and behave by my rules.
    They do not change the way I live. They do not dictate how they are to be treated.
    Or dictate behavior to me.
    They do not get into my refrigerator, or my closets. They do not demand my food or clothing.
    They do not demand lodging.
    They do not expect me to change my language, my customs, what holidays I celebrate,
    and what kind of culture I am part of.
    They knock on the door and ask permission to enter. They do not sneak in the back door.
    There are good strangers and bad strangers. Good strangers bring something with them, they have something to offer. Bad strangers come with nothing but the desire to take from me, whether it be by legal maneuvering or force.

    They do not come to my house expecting me to feed, clothe, and house them by force of an unseen third party.

    Someone who does those things rather than respect my ground is not a visitor, they are intruders.

    The same goes with my country.

    Immigrants come to a country expecting to assimilate INTO that culture, not to change it.
    Those who enter a country expecting to change that country, either by force, coercion, collusion, or insidiously are not immigrants, they are invaders.

    My experience with the invaders that have no respect for our laws and come here in spite of them, full well expecting to be taken care of like newborn babies who bring nothing with them other than an open mouth and open hands, is that they are rude, demanding, and most of them are socially backward with little or no education, zero social skills. and with no intention of doing anything but riding the gravy train for free.

    Even those few of them who do work are not supporting themselves, their “incomes” , which are fraudulently obtained either by working off the grid for cash or using fake identification ( which, if I did that, I would be guilty of and likely prosecuted for fraud) are supplementary income to the free ride they are taking.

    Strangers are welcome to my house when they behave with respect toward me , my property, and anyone I am responsible for. They are welcome as long as they act like guests instead of like imposing intruders.

    Sadly, illegals act like imposing intruders, as well as, even though many of them have NO social skills, no knowledge of hygiene ( many of them, who conveniently wear drapery and no underwear, will even squat down and piss and shit on the sidewalk of a busy street in the center of a busy city, oblivious to the fact that they are creating a health hazard, and entirely unconcerned) rather than acting like visitors.

    That word “immigrant” is horribly misused and applied to a hoard that in any other time in history that militias of the world would be protecting their countries against.

    Calling them undocumented workers is like calling pimps “social advisers”, murderers ” population control specialists” and thieves “inventory reduction clerks”.

    Especially considering I have never seen anyone wearing drapery holding a tool of any kind or doing anything that even remotely resembles any kind of physical effort.

    If someone squats on my property against my will and eventually edges me off of it, they are not a welcome stranger.

    They are my enemy.

    God was quite adamant about being kind to strangers, to the point of destroying Sodom because the people there were not hospitable.

    But God was also quite adamant about His people keeping undesirables out of their communities.

    If the criminals don’t want their families split up, then tell the sonsobitches to obey the law and quit hiding behind bullshit pretend Christianity.
    Churches that aid and abet them is committing a serious sin as well as being traitors. As well as being very bad witnesses and giving people even more reason to flee from anything that calls itself “Christianity”.

    There is no hatred for immigrants. Immigrants are welcome.
    There is fear of undesirables who invade.

    If you are helping criminals get into this country by helping them bypass the system or helping them seek refuge from the law, you are abetting criminals and are a traitor, I don’t care who signs your paycheck.

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