Friday, April 28, 2006


I was sick the last 11 days or so, so I did not blog a bunch of stuff I wanted to. Sorry.

I bought the new Streets CD yesterday on iTunes. It is OK, but you'd probably be happy if you downloaded When You Wasn't Famous, Hotel Expressionism, Two Nations, and maybe Fake Streets Hats.

The Sun-Times reports that one of the media give-aways at a press event for Lollapolooza in Chicago was a pack of rolling papers that said "fully baked rock and roll." As you can imagine, the powers that be have flipped out and the organizers indicated that the give-away was a "huge mistake." Do you think? That's an inappropriate give-away for a concert to be held on Chicago Park District land? Oh boy.

On Monday there is supposed to be a rally in support of migrant rights in Chicago. It is expected to draw 300,000 people. I have blogged before about the Catholic Church's support for migrant rights. It turns out that the issue extends beyond the United States. Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the highest ranking Catholic Church official in England and Wales published an op-ed piece in the British Catholic magazine The Tablet in which he said, among other things:
It is one of the central tasks of Christians – a constant theme of the Old and New Testaments – to offer hospitality to the exile and the stranger, seeing in him and her the face of Christ. As the American bishops put it in their 2003 pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer, “Faith in the presence of Christ in the migrant leads to a conversion of mind and heart, which leads to a renewed spirit of communion.”
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On the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, we want to recognise that, without migrants, London would quickly grind to a halt, and would certainly not experience its current economic growth. But more than saluting them, we want the Eucharist to signal our Church of the future. More than 40 priests from the different ethnic chaplaincies will concelebrate; there will be readings and music in many different languages; and the liturgy will be, in a sense, a glimpse into the soul of the Church in London – a place of unity in diversity: a Church born of Pentecost.

We want migrants to know that we stand in solidarity with them, and we want to invite our parishioners to become aware and conscious of the strangers in our midst. The people we stand alongside in the pews need us also to stand alongside them in their search for dignity and justice and a new life. London is a place of tremendous opportunity for newcomers to earn money and acquire new skills – and hopefully work, homes, security and growth for their families. But migration also involves tremendous suffering: loneliness, exploitation and insecurity.
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The Church has long taught that to migrate is a right for families “when they are unable to achieve a life of dignity in their own land”, as Pope Pius XII wrote in his classic 1952 document Exsul Familia, which took its name from the Holy Family fleeing into Egypt. Catholic teaching also recognises that nations have the right to control their own borders and to regulate immigration. 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 welcoming the stranger we should not distinguish between “legal” and “illegal” migrants. Illegal immigration is not something the Church can approve of or encourage. But our Gospel mandate is to assist strangers, whoever they are, and meanwhile to urge that the rights of undocumented workers be respected. The Church, said Pope John Paul II in his Migration Day message, “is the place where illegal immigrants are also recognised and welcomed as brothers and sisters”. Speaking out recently against a bill in the United States Senate that could make assisting undocumented workers illegal, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles wrote in The New York Times: “The unspoken truth of the immigration debate is that at the same time our nation benefits economically from the presence of undocumented workers, we turn a blind eye when they are exploited by employers.”

In many ways, London now has similarities with the London of Cardinal Manning, when the capital’s workforce was swelled by massive Irish immigration. Manning spoke out for poor labourers, arguing that “whatever rights capital possesses, labour possesses in the same degree” – a notion that would later be enshrined in Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum.

Of course, we cannot be naive about the social tensions that the massive immigration of the past years have produced. In the East End of London, in particular, there is a sense of being overwhelmed; and for elderly, working-class Catholics, who find they are the only ones in the doctor’s surgery who speak English as a native language, there is a sense of the cultural ground being pulled out from under them.

We need to be aware of these feelings. But our task, as the Church is to forge communion by welcoming the stranger, and to demonstrate that natives and foreigners are not rivals but first of all brothers and sisters in Christ. The exciting challenge of the future in London is to forge a Church of the Pentecost in which the migrants are “strangers no longer”.


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