By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle officially launched the global pilgrimage portion of the "Share the Journey" campaign on Sunday. Initiated by Pope Francis in September 2017, this campaign seeks to bridge the gap between communities and migrants.
As this initiative begins, thousands of migrants are literally journeying together towards Mexico, hoping to enter the United States. Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference Committee on Migration, spoke with Vatican News about the Church’s response and how others can help.
First priority: providing care
Bishop Vásquez said that the Church has issued statements regarding the “vast amount of people that are coming up from Honduras, traveling through Mexico”, trying to reach the US border. He said that they have made it clear that “the first priority is to take care of those people who are traveling.” Then he emphasized:
“The immigrant is so central to the Church. We’re always speaking on behalf of the immigrant because they need protection, they need our help.”
What migrants are fleeing
Many of the migrants are escaping “very terrible situations of violence, of poverty, of corruption”, Bishop Vásquez continued. “They simply seek to take care of their families, to be able to provide for them.” His hope is that they will meet with understanding on the part of the countries through which they travel. But he also affirmed that each situation needs to be considered individually to ascertain that “they are indeed leaving for those reasons, and trying to escape from those horrible conditions”. Although they have the right to flee, he admitted that “countries also have the right to monitor and take care of their borders, and find security”. Therefore, migrants seeking entrance need to follow the laws in force.
Groups assisting along the way
Bishop Vàsquez confirmed that various charitable organizations, Catholic and non-Catholic, as well as people of good will, are assisting the migrants on their journey north.
“My understanding is that in different places along the way there are indeed Catholic organizations, Catholic groups that receive the migrants, allow them to stay overnight, give them food, give them assistance, make sure that they are protected.”
He also acknowledged that most of the migrants leave with only the clothes on their backs and that the journey can at times be perilous. This is why they need support from the Church and the wider community.
What we can do
For those who wish to help, Bishop Vàsquez suggests contacting local Catholic Charities organizations or the local Diocesan Offices. The second form of help he mentioned is prayer.
“Prayer is also very much needed so that we can show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering.”