Reading the September 28 article “Why American Catholics may not be persuaded by Pope Francis’ message on immigration,” I was disappointed on many levels – in part, due to the article's misplaced reliance on a non-scientific “experiment” – but most importantly because it totally missed the point of Pope Francis’s strong and consistent comments on immigration.
With a simple introductory statement – “I am a child of immigrants” – Pope Francis sought to change the tone of our national debate. Time after time we have found that people who know immigrants are more likely to understand their dreams and struggles and more likely to welcome them into their communities. Pope Francis reminds us that our nation is, and always will be, a nation of immigrants; that immigrants are not “them” but are “us.”
Even before the powerful words Pope Francis shared with Congress and the country in the past week, American Catholics have been moved by his message and have been taking action. They have offered their homes and communities to Syrian refugees. They have worked to provide respite and legal representation to unaccompanied minors and women near our Southern border. And they have worked with members of Congress to initiate legislation and continue advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.
These examples show that Pope Francis is already connecting with Catholics, and will continue to do so. Maybe that is because, unlike the fictitious messages cited by the authors, Pope Francis’s message is undeniably heartfelt and real.
Jeanne M. Atkinson is Executive Director at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)