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Embracing a Culture of Encounter

Sep 24, 2013
Jeanne M. Atkinson

Today Pope Francis released the annual statement for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated January 14, 2014. Pope Francis said that in countries around the world we should welcome and respect immigrants and not treat them as “pawns on the chessboard of humanity.”

He calls for us to remember the humanity of individuals first and foremost in all things, with a “sprit of profound solidarity and compassion.”   He reminds us of the role of the Church as a global institution who accompanies migrants on their journey – in the communities of origin, transit, and destination. It is this role as an institution that continues to strike me as Executive Director of CLINIC.

In the past six months, I have met with many, many CLINIC affiliates welcoming and serving immigrants in communities across the country. Last week, I participated in an Immigration Institute hosted by Catholic Charities USA in San Francisco. The gathering had 35 Catholic Charities directors and staff who are dedicating their livelihoods to the Church’s ministry to immigrants and refugees, embracing what the Holy Father has called “a culture of encounter.”  One program works with refugee integration into the agriculture communities of the Midwest, and another just completed a pilgrimage from Sacramento to Bakersfield in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. 

I continually go back to the words of Pope Francis at Lampedusa, words that echo in my mind and that I continue to pray on. And that is – that we are indeed our brother’s keeper.  Each of us has a responsibility to serve one another.  As our Congress debates the merits of comprehensive immigration reform and what is right for our country, let us pray that everyone is mindful of how best to welcome and respect one another.