Friday, May 16, 2008

Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Families

Launching from the same springboard he used to defend traditional marriage earlier today, B16 returned to a frequent message-point of his Stateside swing, offering another appeal for the care and well-being of migrants -- again framed by the priority of nurturing family life -- as he closed this week's annual plenary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples:
"One must not forget that the family, including the migrant or itinerant family, is the original cell of society and must not be destroyed," [the Pope] said. The family is "the community in which, from infancy, one is taught to adore and love God, learning the grammar of human and moral values and how to make good use of freedom in truth."

Many families find it difficult to live up to their calling, he said, but the challenges multiply for families who are on the move together or whose lives are marked by long periods of separation....

During his U.S. trip, the pope told council members, "I had the opportunity to encourage that great country to continue its commitment to welcoming those brothers and sisters who come mainly from poor countries. In particular, I highlighted the serious problem of family reunification."

The Catholic Church, he said, works not only on behalf of individuals on the move, "but also for their families, communities of love and factors of integration."

Particularly with Catholic immigrants, he said, it is essential that parishes reach out and invite families to Mass, highlighting the connection between Christ's love poured out in the Eucharist and the love and self-giving of a husband and wife.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., a member of the council, offered other members concrete suggestions for improving the pastoral care of immigrant families, particularly when welcoming a new birth, celebrating marriages and marking a death.

At each of these moments, he said, the customs of the immigrant's or migrant's culture of origin must be taken into account and respected as much as possible.

Many immigrants come from countries where couples must have a civil marriage before the religious ceremony can take place, but the disruption of migration or lack of money often means they never receive the sacrament of marriage, he said. Facilitating the celebration is an important pastoral task, he said.
On a related news-note, the pontiff used the migration council's plenary to confirm its president, Cardinal Renato Martino -- who reached the retirement age of 75 last November -- in his twin curial posts "until further provision is made."

Alongside M&I, the Italian prelate -- previously the longstanding Vatican observer at the UN -- has served since 2002 as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

...meanwhile, in the Heartland, "scores" of Latin American immigrants have taken sanctuary in a church amid a series of raids:
“You can see the fear that’s out there,” said the Rev. Paul Ouderkirk, gesturing toward immigrants milling in the church yard.

The immigrants were worried that federal agents will sweep down again on the town. On Monday, federal agents raided the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant and arrested 390 workers on immigration charges....

Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement have declined to say if there will be any more arrests.

Donations have helped St. Bridget’s leaders feed the immigrants taking shelter in the small church.

Ouderkirk said fears were rekindled early Friday when word spread that a truck with the initials “I.C.” was in town. Some immigrants feared that meant Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had returned, so they fled back to the church at about 2 a.m.

Ouderkirk said the trucks apparently were from the Illinois Central railroad.

Friday afternoon, Agriprocessors President Sholom Rubashkin went to the church rectory to talk to Ouderkirk about ways to get paychecks to the workers.

Rubashkin, who has kept a low profile during the controversy, declined a request for an interview. When asked if he had anything to say about it, he replied, “good morning.”

Ouderkirk said the company had agreed to pay the money, but was trying to work out the legality of giving checks to people without being sure who they were. A local bank agreed to cash the checks if church leaders would sign papers vouching for the people’s identities. Officials also were trying to work out a way that spouses could cash paychecks for workers who were in federal custody, so they could continue to care for their families.
PHOTO: Getty