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Honoring Cardinal Roger Mahony: A Champion for Immigrants
By: James Porter*
Earlier this week, Archbishop José H. Gomez (a member of CLINIC’s Board of Directors) became the fifth archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, following the retirement of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony on his 75th birthday. Cardinal Mahony led what has become the nation’s largest Roman Catholic diocese with almost 4.2 million Catholics, 70% of whom are Hispanic. He was appointed Archbishop of Los Angeles by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and was made a cardinal in 1991.
During his tenure as Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony demonstrated his commitment to fighting for the rights of immigrants. As a young seminarian, Mahony began to feel called to serve migrant workers and often traveled with fellow seminarians to offer mass at farm labor camps. This commitment stemmed from his admiration of Cesar Chavez’s commitment to workers’ rights.
As he rose through the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy, Cardinal Mahony became a spokesperson for the U.S. Catholic Church’s position on immigration. From the federal government’s harmful immigration reforms of 1996, to the failed attempts in 2007 for comprehensive immigration reform, to the DREAM Act in 2010, Cardinal Mahony has been steadfast in his advocacy to promote justice for immigrants. He has spoken at universities to engage young people in the immigration debate, voiced his opposition to the “retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless” Arizona anti-immigrant bill, and written opinion pieces in major newspapers. Cardinal Mahony even spoke in front of 250,000 people on the National Mall at a rally in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
Embracing the way communication has changed since he was first installed as an archbishop, Cardinal Mahony started a blog in 2009 devoted to sharing his views on a variety of issues, many times turning to the topic of immigration. His blog enabled him to share his thoughts on the great need for the DREAM Act in late 2010 and to provide reflections on the “faces and stories of immigrants” to bring a more personal tone to the immigration debate.
Archbishop José H. Gomez, in his remarks during the February 27 transition mass, thanked Cardinal Mahony for his leadership and stated:
He has shown us what Christ wants his Church to be - a communion of cultures and a communion of saints, one family of God drawn from every country, race, and language…I am inspired by his love for the immigrant, for the strangers in our midst…I am challenged by his call for us to live the Gospel - to find Christ among the poor, to love the immigrant as our neighbor and our friend.
Cardinal Mahony intends to continue his advocacy on behalf of immigrants, and does not see his retirement as a break from fulfilling God’s calling to reach out to the stranger among us. CLINIC thanks Cardinal Mahony for being one of our nation’s strongest pro-immigrant voices, and wishes him well in this exciting new chapter of his life.
In his reflection on his retirement, Cardinal Mahony stated:
As I move forward to the next stage of my journey in faith, I ask that you join me in prayer and mutual support as I seek to live more wholeheartedly the answer to the call I have heard from Jesus: When did you see me, a stranger, and welcome me? When I looked into the faces of the eleven million who all bear the hopeful face of Jesus Christ!
For more information on how you can honor Cardinal Mahony’s legacy and become more involved, check out the Justice for Immigrants Campaign.
*James Porter is the Communications Officer for CLINIC
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