Bishops of Arizona: A Pastoral Letter on Migration
In the past, Michael and I have emphasized the importance of the papal social encyclicals when discussing Catholic Social Teaching. Here is just an excerpt from the 2005 Pastoral Letter on Migration issued by the Bishops of Arizona that touches on the Social Doctrine of the Church.
“The encyclical Rerum Novarum, written in 1891 about the plight of workers in the Industrial Revolution and the great wave of European migration to the United States, was the first document to address the right to migrate to sustain one’s family. Pope Pius XI affirmed this right again 40 years later in his document, Quadragessimo Anno. At the end of World War II, with the unprecedented migration of millions of refugees and displaced people across the world, Pope Pius XII issued the document Exsul Familia in 1952, taking its name from he “Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt.” This document underscored the Church’s commitment to “pilgrims, aliens, exiles and migrants of every kind.” Based on the Biblical and ancient Christian teaching that the goods of the earth belong to all people, it reaffirmed the principle that people have the right to migrate to sustain their families when they are unable to achieve a life of dignity in their own land.
Catholic teaching also recognizes that nations have the right to control their own borders and to regulate immigration, but that this right is not absolute. Exsul Familia states that the needs of immigrants must be measured against the needs of the receiving countries, and that the rights of these nations must not be exaggerated to the point of denying access to needy people from other countries. In 1963, in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope John XXIII expands the right to migrate, but also the right of all persons to find opportunities to support themselves and their families in their own countries, without being forced to migrate. Our teachings also tell us that all people should have the right to seek refugee and asylum status without being incarcerated if their lives are in danger in their homeland. The final principle underscoring all Church teachings on migration is that the human dignity and human rights of all migrants, regardless of their legal status, should be respected and upheld. The U.S. bishops have spoken out several times over the years on the need to respect the rights and dignity of undocumented immigrants in our country. One of the most significant documents released by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in 2003, in conjunction with the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, was the pastoral statement on migration known as Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”
Click here for the complete Pastoral letter.