In a reaffirmation of Roman Catholic social teaching, the U.S. bishops called yesterday for just treatment of Mexican migrants and urged a stronger commitment to "overcome the scandal of poverty in our land."
Their statement on migration, "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope," was the first joint document issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the bishops of Mexico, who are expected to approve it this week.
Responding to debate in the United States over limiting immigration, the bishops' letter acknowledges that sovereign nations have a right to protect their borders.
But the statement contends that more powerful and wealthy nations have an obligation to share their wealth with those seeking economic opportunity.
Mexican workers who cross into the United States, many of them Catholic, are a major economic force in both countries.
Money, rights, dignity
The $10 billion that Mexican workers send home each year to their families represents the third-largest source of foreign currency for that country, after oil and tourism.
The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected, the letter said.
The bishops also called on the Mexican government to create employment opportunities in that country.
"Targeted development projects in Mexican municipalities and rural areas that traditionally have had the highest rates of emigration are necessary," they said.
Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien of Phoenix, Ariz., said the stance on migration was of particular importance in his state, where 167 immigrants died this summer trying to enter the country -- nearly half of all border deaths nationwide.
The statement on poverty, "A Place at the Table," reminds Catholics of their duty to serve the poor.
"We may sometimes differ about the specifics of how to best serve those in need, overcome poverty, and advance human dignity, but no Christian can say that this is not our task," it said.
The bishops also approved a statement that raised serious reservations about military action against Iraq absent "adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature."
"As our nation debates its response to terrorism and other threats, we cannot simply consider military responses," said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, chairman of the bishops' domestic policy committee.
"As bishops, we must hold up the importance of investing in hope by pursuing policies that address the roots of violence and reduce poverty and suffering in our nation and world."