Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Over the past few months our nation as well as our parish have been affected by some executive actions by the current administration that have brought up sensitive issues and feelings within many of us. Bishop José has written a Pastoral Letter about Immigration that I believe offers understanding, comfort, hope and perspective:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the past five months as your bishop, I have traveled extensively throughout Western North Carolina, visiting parishes and exploring the various communities that encompass our diocese. I am continually blessed by the opportunity to learn and know your congregation's story as well as the unique, personal narratives from many of our lay leaders. These stories have deepened my appreciation for the grace that flows through this wonderful diocese.
I also hope that through our conversations and prayers, you have heard my story and witnessed the grace of God that flows through my life. I hope you have come to know that it is not my custom to officially address every issue discussed in the public square. As your bishop, I value "the middle way," recognizing that our church is a community that welcomes all people, in the diversity of their convictions, to join together at the Lord's Table and share in the one bread and the one cup.
Nevertheless, I must speak out and stand firm in solidarity with the immigrants among us and the refugees seeking a safe harbor for their families.
As you might know, I am the son of a refugee. In 1961, my mother fled Cuba and the oppressive, communist regime of Fidel Castro. Along with other members of her family, my mother lost all she had and risked her life in pursuit of freedom and the possibility to realize her potential. My family made their way to Puerto Rico, where they were welcomed and given an opportunity to become citizens of the United States and contribute to the common good. And all along the journey, the Church demonstrated the radical welcome of Jesus, which profoundly shaped their new lives.
From the very first time I introduced myself to you, I shared my belief that I am called to be a bishop who not only proclaims the Gospel in words, but also in actions. This principle was set out in my ordination, when I was asked, "Will you boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people?" Ever since, I have taken seriously how we nurture our lives as disciples of Jesus, as well as explore innovative ways to stand alongside and serve those in need.
Our Lord Jesus served within an ancient tradition that firmly welcomed immigrants and refugees. "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19). Jesus himself was clear when he said, "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me" and "that which you did to the least of these, you did to me" (Matthew 25). We put our faith into action when we demonstrate radical hospitality and solidarity for all people, including the immigrant and refugee. We put our faith into action when we speak out against both hateful language and acts of bigotry.
Likewise, as Americans, one of our core values is echoed by the poem etched in the base of the Statue of Liberty: "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." My earlier years in law enforcement as well as serving at the Department of Justice emphasize that I will always honor the work necessary to ensure that proper safeguards are in place to help secure our nation. However, we also need to take every precaution not to impose restrictions or preferences based on religion, and we must always keep in mind that refugees and other immigrants have been a consistent source of creativity, ingenuity, and productivity - a true blessing to this nation and those who love it.
Finally, while there may be some in our communities who cheer the anti-immigrant sentiments and actions being unleashed, as your bishop, I entreat each of you to remember the grace of Christ that brought each of us into the safe harbor of God's love, and then I invite you to join me in proclaiming a Gospel message of peace and solidarity for the stranger and foreigner in our midst.
The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin
VII Bishop of Western North Carolina
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