Near immigration's ground zero, bishops begin border trip with Mass

By Rhina Guidos

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) — The bishops of the Catholic
Church in the United States have for weeks expressed outrage and condemned the
government’s recent practice of separating children from a parent or a family
member if they’re caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without legal

On July 1, led by the president of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, a delegation of prelates from around the country physically
stepped into the ground zero of the immigration debate when they arrived in the
Brownsville-McAllen area near the southern border to meet with those affected
by the policy.

“This is a sign that the bishops of the United States are
concerned about the situation and the circumstances affecting people, not just
those who live in Brownsville but all along the border,” said the local bishop, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville during a July 1 interview with
Catholic News Service. “This is a moment to completely understand the reality
of the situation, to meet, speak with people who are living this reality. It’s
a message for the church.”

Bishop Flores welcomed the delegation led by the president of the USCCB,
Cardinal Daniel
N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, during a morning Mass at the Basilica
of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Diocese of Rockville
Centre, New York, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, also were present during the Mass. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is vice president of the USCCB, is expected to
join the delegation.

Referring to the Sunday Gospel readings from the Book of
Mark, in which Jesus heals the daughter of the Biblical Jairus, Bishop Flores,
who delivered the homily, said that what the bishops were doing near the border
was similar. Jesus was attentive to the woman who touched him and wanted to be
healed. Jesus was capable of stopping for a moment and listening to her and
tending to her so he could heal her. The story provides the people of God an
example of what God wants, he said.

is an example for us because of his capacity to tend to this person in his
presence and allowing that woman to change his path,” Bishop Flores said. “What
kind of people does the Lord want? He wants a people capable of looking at the
reality in front of them and adapting to that reality. He didn’t say, ‘I don’t
have time for you today.’ He didn’t say, ‘You’re not in the plan, you’re not in
the calendar.'”

To be compassionate, one has to have his or her eyes open
just as Jesus shows us in the Gospel, he said, and the bishops were visiting
the border to listen and to see the reality in that area in a similar manner.

“The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and
talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst
us,” he said, switching between English and Spanish. “That’s what the Lord
taught us: to listen and then respond to the plan, the Christian plan, and to
give hope to the poorest and neediest, to tell them that the Christian people
have not forgotten them.”

Christ’s example, he said, was to respect the dignity of
each person, “each one, and to hear their cry to tend to them. That is the
purpose of the church.”

“We as a church have to hear where the reality is, we have
to be the ones to say, ‘There’s a human face and that human face always points
us to Christ.’ If we don’t say it, who will?” Bishop Flores asked.

He said he was glad the bishops would be able to witness the
generosity of the people of the Rio Grande Valley, who with few resources always
respond generously to those who have needed them over the years.

“Let’s ask the Lord to allow us to see with open eyes to
respond with compassionate hearts,” he said. “We can be a country of laws
without being a nation that lacks compassion.”

The start of the two-day visit began a day after mass protests around
the U.S. demanded a stop to the separation of families. The prelates’ visit will
be focused on family separation and they plan to visit a center for migrants run
by Catholic Charities and also to meet with authorities near the border.

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