Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2016 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the country recovers from a divisive election and many in the U.S. are living in uncertainty, the Church must offer everyone hope, the outgoing president of the U.S. bishops' conference maintained Monday.
“The Church at her best has always been a beacon of hope,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville stated Nov. 14 at a press conference during the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.
He added that the Church “advocates for people who feel that they’re disenfranchised or are filled with fear,” and pointed to statements he made earlier in the morning to migrants and refugees, who might be fearful after the recent presidential election.
Just as Christ said in the Gospels “I am with you,” he exhorted his fellow bishops to repeat to these persons who have fled violence and persecution: “we are with you.”
The bishops are meeting for their annual general assembly Nov. 14-16 in Baltimore. On Monday they heard the final presidential address of outgoing president Archbishop Kurtz, as well as an address by the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre.
Regarding the recent presidential election, Archbishop Kurtz said earlier on Monday that he had written to President-elect Donald Trump expressing a “willingness to work together” for the “protection of life” and the “promotion of human dignity.”
The bishops “have been very clear for the right to life of the child in the womb,” Archbishop Kurtz insisted, adding that the Church is defending human dignity by opposing the legalization of assisted suicide, which was recently approved by voters in Colorado and by the city government of Washington, D.C.
Trump’s victory has been met with protests in cities across the country, capping what was already a polarizing election cycle.
Bishops responded to the protests by stating their respect for freedom of speech while insisting that a “peaceful transition of power” take place. “I think that these can be reconciled,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, of the protests and peace.
There is nothing “more American than a peaceful transition of power,” he stated.
The bishops were also asked about the fear of immigrants and refugees. Trump ran on a strong immigration platform that called for, among other things, a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for those deported from the U.S. who try to illegally re-enter.
Last year he called for a halt on Muslims being able to enter the country, for national security reasons. He expanded that policy this past summer by saying that the U.S. should not accept refugees from countries “compromised by terrorism.”
He said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he plans to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented persons “that are criminal and have criminal records” after he is sworn in as president.
Archbishop Wenski recognized the validity of fears many in the U.S. have of being deported, but exhorted them to stay calm.
In 1980, when President Reagan was elected, the archbishop recalled he met with Haitian detainees who were crying in fear. He recalled telling them, “don’t worry, nothing’s changed,” pointing to other countries where violent riots might take place during a transition of power.
“We have a rule of law,” Archbishop Wenski said on Monday. “Nobody can arbitrarily try to send out of the country, in one fell swoop, 11 million people.”
“Those people [Haitians] are still here,” he added, saying that “it’s time to take a deep breath” and to “continue our advocacy.”
“If they build a wall, we have to make sure they put some doors in that wall,” he said, referring to Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Catholics should also support those who have been helping immigrants all along, Archbishop Kurtz added. Many Catholic Charities workers have been serving immigrants for a long time, and we must “encourage and even salute in some ways” these workers, he said.
Plus, there is public support for immigration reform which would include a “path to permanent residency” and “eventual citizenship,” Archbishop Wenski said.
The bishops were also asked about the implementation of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family, and if it would uphold Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching in Familiaris consortio that the divorced-and-remarried may receive reconciliation in the sacrament of Confession only if they have repented of having broken the sign of the covenant and, if for serious reasons they cannot separate, they agree to live in complete continence, living as brother and sister.
Archbishop Kurtz instructed Catholics to “read first chapter four and five” of the letter, and pointed to what “our Holy Father has said,” that “very clearly that there is no desire on his part to make any canonical changes or any new doctrine.”