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Pope lauds US bishops' work for immigration reform

Catholic World News - May 18, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI saluted “the longstanding commitment of the American bishops to immigration reform” as he spoke on May 18 to the final group of bishops from the US completing their ad limina visits.

"The Catholic community in the United States continues, with great generosity, to welcome waves of new immigrants, to provide them with pastoral care and charitable assistance, and to support ways of regularizing their situation, especially with regard to the unification of families,” the Pope said. The question of immigration reform, he said, is “of profound concern to the Church, since it involves ensuring the just treatment and the defense of the human dignity of immigrants.”

In his remarks on immigration, the Pontiff spoke explicitly about the “swelling numbers of Hispanic, Asia, and African Catholics” entering the US. But he was speaking to a group of bishops who represent different immigrant communities: the bishops who head the American dioceses and eparchies of the Eastern Catholic churches.

Speaking more directly to the experience of these Eastern-rite Catholics, the Pope observed that they “embody in a unique way the ethnic, cultural and spiritual richness of the American Catholic community, past and present.” He acknowledged the challenges that have confronted immigrant Catholics in earlier generations, noting that “the Church in America has struggled to recognize and incorporate this diversity,” but said that an acceptance of new immigrants and their traditions helps to cement “a communion in Christ and in the apostolic faith which mirrors the catholicity which is an indefectible mark of the Church.”

Before concluding his remarks, the Pope paid tribute to the contributions that religious women have made to the growth of Catholicism in the US, and expressed his hope that the coming Year of Faith “will awaken a desire on the part of the entire Catholic community in America to reappropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith.”

The bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches composed the final group of American prelates traveling to Rome for the ad limina visits: the regular visits that are made by bishops every 5 years ad limina apostolorum--“to the thresholds of the apostles”—as pilgrimages to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul and as opportunities to meet with the Pope and Vatican officials. The American bishops have been making these visits, in groups arranged by metropolitan provinces, over the past several months.

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