Rising hostility to immigrants decried Bishops attack greed, racism

November 17, 1993|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The nation's Roman Catholic bishops decried yesterday what they said is "growing hostility toward immigrants" among American citizens, including politicians, and they urged a "change of heart" and a "renewed commitment" to accepting refugees.

The assembled bishops, archbishops and cardinals -- mindful that their church's growth in the United States over the last century and a half came from waves of immigrants -- expressed their serious concern about "a new wave of nativism which is destructive to healthy communities."

Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, N.J., chairman of the committee that wrote the statement approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said its criticisms were "not aimed at any specific politicians" but that "many political leaders cause us alarm."

Asserting that a new hostility toward immigrants and refugees is often expressed by publicly blaming current economic and social difficulties on foreigners, the document says:

"Some public officials are calling for public policies that tend to foster an attitude of selfishness and greed, racism and cultural bias. We must raise our collective voice to protest this mentality and call for a change of heart and a renewed commitment as a nation to solidarity with immigrants and refugees."

Archbishop McCarrick also declined to be specific about what immigration restrictions the Catholic Church would consider fair.

The adopted statement says: "The church believes in a reasonable level of immigration and respects governments' responsibility for protecting the common good of their citizens."

While the United States cannot be expected to accept a disproportionate share of immigration caused by "the widening gap between rich and poor nations, ecological disasters and ethnic conflicts," national policies must not be "selfish" or "exclusionary," the document says. U.S. citizens must be reminded that immigration historically "has been our strength and a source of renewal," it says.

Archbishop McCarrick, who also chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, received approval from the bishops' conference to continue for two more years collections in the nation's Catholic churches for projects in the former Soviet bloc. He announced that over the past three years nearly $20 million has been raised.

Other concerns addressed by the bishops yesterday included what they called U.S. foreign policy's twin dangers of isolationism and unwise intervention.

The document on foreign policy that the 235 bishops at the meeting are expected to adopt today says that violence for religious reasons -- wherever it occurs -- is "a crime against God." But it also says that in many parts of the world "authentic religious belief" should be nurtured as "a powerful force for non-violent human liberation."

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