I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me” Pastoral Letter on Welcoming Refugees

The Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) published their Pastoral Letter on October 26, 2015. In their four section letter they begin by explaining in the first section (Why We Are Writing) the rationale for the letter. They are direct in saying, “We believe that discussion is not enough; this is a time for urgent action”. The CCCB is indicating that the traditional definition of a “refugee” is no longer adequate. They declare, “We can now add a new category of climate or environmental refugees”.

In the second section entitled “Biblical Teaching” the Bishops remind us that Jesus himself was a refugee, “Even the child Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled the persecution of King Herod (Matthew 2.13-14)”. The key phrase is from the Gospel of St. Mathew – “I was a stranger and you
welcomed me” (Matthew 25.35).

The next section, “Welcoming and Protecting Refugees” reminds us clearly that what we as Church can do is not only limited to simply assisting and supporting the refugee as they progress through the process of selection, but must look to full inclusion that clearly respects differences. This section goes on to note the many issues in need of clarification. These include: accelerating procedures, emphasis on family reunification, asylum, appeal procedures and others.

The final section (The Church: Speaking and Acting on Behalf of Refugees) the challenge is clear, “Our faith calls us to let ourselves be moved – even disturbed – by our sisters and brothers who are refugees”. The Bishops note and congratulate the many parishes and other groups who have sponsored refugees over the years. In terms of the Government, the Bishops say, “It is imperative that this Catholic voice be heard by the Canadian government”. There are several practical ideas that are meant for all of us to undertake. These include: call on the federal government, praying for refugees in camps around the world, support Development and Peace and CNEWA, create local diocesan services, mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees, provide formation for pastors and pastoral workers and establish a pastoral ministry for migrants.

You can read the entire letter here.

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