The sixth "Raíces y Alas” (“Roots and Wings") congress inaugurated a new stage in the history of Hispanic pastoral ministry in the United States, showing the "muscle" of an emerging and vibrant Catholicism.
On the morning of April 27, the more than 400 attendees of the “Roots and Wings” congress headed to Capitol Hill to ask the political representatives of their own states to work for immigration reform.
This petition stems from one of the priorities of Hispanic ministry in recent decades: social justice, based on the social doctrine of the Church, and not on political or ideological grounds.
This was precisely the central point of the press conference offered at the foot of the Capitol by Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and president of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB: This is a “non-partisan and non-ideological” initiative, since “there are Catholics in both parties.”
“This is about safeguarding the dignity of people who, because of an inefficient and unjust immigration system, live in the shadows and are unable to defend their rights,” Bishop Dorsonville warned. “No more empty promises! We need a legal reform of the immigration laws now.”
“For decades, bishops, Catholic leaders and people of good will have been calling for comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes the dignity of every person in the nation. Congress has the power and responsibility to respond to this urgent need in a way that unites both parties, without partisanship or ideology,” he said. “Reform cannot wait. We are tired of broken promises.”
Two politicians spoke alongside Bishop Dorsonville, Republican Dan Newhouse (Washington) and Democrat Saul Ortiz Carbajal (California). Both are among the promoters of a legal reform to protect the rights of undocumented migrants working in the agricultural sector.
The best way to fight illegal migration and guarantee the nation’s security, both representatives said, is to achieve an efficient and fair immigration system.
Exploring Catholic social doctrine
Emilce Cuda, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and expert in the Social Doctrine of the Church, also spoke on behalf of the Holy See, recalling that this body of doctrine was born more than a hundred years ago thanks to the contribution of North American Catholicism.
Cuda recalled the teachings of Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti, stating that it is necessary to find new ways to guarantee social justice for discarded sectors of society, such as illegal workers. “Migrants are not tourists; they are forced to migrate. That is the first problem that needs to be solved, so that they are not forced to leave their places of origin.”
For Elisabeth Román, president of the NCCHM, the current situation should move documented migrants in the United States to become involved. They are, she said, the first who have the responsibility to help and fight for their undocumented brothers and sisters.
A congress with international reach
The presence at the congress of several representatives of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) and of the Holy See has given the work of the Hispanic pastoral projection beyond the borders of the USA. All the more so because, in addition to its own pastoral objectives, the conclusions of their labors will be taken into account for the synod on synodality currently underway in dioceses around the world.
During the presentation to the congress participants on Tuesday, April 26, Bishop Miguel Cabrejos, president of CELAM, announced the establishment of an institutional alliance with the NCCHM to work together for the evangelization of the continent.
The participation of Rodrigo Guerra, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, was also noteworthy, and he insisted that the Church’s social doctrine is not purely theoretical. “It is born from the encounter with Christ, and it is above all a response to an experience of Christ; it is born from the experience of the people, gathered by the pastors, not from theory,” he pointed out.