ORLANDO, Florida (AP) — The leader of the nation’s Catholic bishops weighed in on ongoing immigration issues Thursday, calling for effective border management while emphasizing the church’s need to help migrants — and questioning political leaders who are transporting them to faraway states.
“We strive to encourage those well-intentioned lawmakers who are seeking to enact effective and humane border management as part of a framework of comprehensive immigration reforms,” said Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an address at the start of the bishops’ spring gathering.
He called on fellow Catholics to continue aid to immigrants. “We cannot fail to see the face of Christ in all of those who need our assistance, especially the poor and the vulnerable,” said Broglio, who heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services. “I know that this can put us at odds with certain groups or those who fear immigration. But our commitment is to the … dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.”
Broglio voiced skepticism about the trend of some governors shipping migrants elsewhere — typically from red to blue states amid a wider ideological clash over how to respond to asylum seekers and other migrants.
“If they’re transporting them to to make a statement, then that seems to me to be problematic,” Broglio said when asked about the issue at a news conference. “If they’re transporting them, because those other states might be better able to respond to the immediate needs, well then that might be a way of responding to the problem. However, I suspect that it’s more to make a statement.”
Earlier this month, El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz voiced similar criticism after Florida state workers recruited migrants outside a Catholic church for a tax-funded flight to California, with promises of jobs and housing, a Catholic official said. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, has taken credit for such flights.
The bishops have a relatively light agenda for the two-day public portion of their meeting, concluding Friday, at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. Typically they have a heavier agenda in the fall.
Bishops are slated to vote Friday on whether to begin revisions to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services — which guides the widespread network of Catholic hospitals and other health institutions on what they should and should not do. Although the agenda doesn’t give a reason for the revisions, the meeting comes three months after bishops issued doctrinal guidelines opposing gender transition care in Catholic hospitals.
They heard reports about the ongoing “synodal” process convened by Pope Francis — an unprecedented two-year canvassing of the lay Catholic faithful worldwide about their vision for the church and how it can better respond to the needs of Catholics today. Reports on those dialogues are being gathered for an October meeting of bishops in Rome.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio or ambassador to the U.S., said the process echoes Pope Francis’ goal of getting beyond ideology. “When we engage with people’s real experiences — as ‘messy’ as that reality may be — we give them hope because they realize that Christ is willing to be with them no matter where they are on their journey,” Pierre said.
The bishops also heard a progress report on plans for a nationwide gathering in Indianapolis in July 2024 focused on devotion to the Eucharist — the communion celebration at the heart of Catholic worship. Local groups have held discussions and worship activities in preparation for the event, which will be preceded by three multi-state pilgrimages converging on Indianapolis from different routes, said Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, who chairs the bishops’ advisory group to the gathering.
On another matter, Broglio expressed solidarity with Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez in dismay over the Los Angeles Dodgers’ honoring the satirical group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence for its charitable work in a Pride Night event Friday. Catholic bishops say the group, which dresses extravagantly as nuns, is blasphemous and reminiscent of past anti-Catholic bigotry.
“The disrespect for the truths and traditions of our faith, for the legendary commitment of religious women to building up society, and the tarnishing of what has so often been called the national sport harken back to the ‘know nothings’ of the 19th century,” Broglio said.
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