Nuncio at border Mass prays for an end to barriers that separate people

IMAGE: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

By Nancy Wiechec

Ariz. (CNS) — The apostolic nuncio to the United States celebrated Mass at the
U.S.-Mexico border Oct. 23 offering prayers to break down the barriers that
separate people.

Christophe Pierre faced the immense steel border fence in Nogales as he and the
bishop of Tucson and the bishop of Mexico’s Diocese of Nogales, Sonora,
concelebrated the liturgy with people gathered on both sides of the border.

nuncio began the prayer of the faithful with a plea for unity.

we come before you today as your disciples, sometimes filled with fear and
doubt, even suspicion,” he said. “We pray to dismantle the barriers within our
hearts and minds that separate us, who are all members of your body.”

his words, young people led the congregation in prayers for “needed immigration
reform,” for humane treatment of migrants who don’t have documents, and for “security
and justice for all.” They prayed especially for migrant children, “who are
vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” and for all who have died in border
violence, including border patrol agents, immigrants and innocent victims.

Mass was the third such one this year along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The
liturgies were organized by Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of the dioceses
of Nogales, Tucson and Phoenix to work collaboratively on issues that affect
the church and people in the border region.

his homily and afterward in an interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop
Pierre echoed the sentiments of Pope Francis in regard to borders and the care
of migrants and refugees, who the archbishop said all too often are looked upon
as unwanted and as criminals.

exist all over the world, and borders are not bad, but borders should not be
just a barrier — should not be a wall — but should be a bridge between
people,” the nuncio said.

that goes in the direction of understanding, helping each other, discovering
the beauty of the other is what is necessary to covert hearts and transform the
world,” he said. “It’s time to break the obstacles that exist between people.”

cheers from both sides of the border, Archbishop Pierre ended his homily with, “Viva
Cristo Rey! Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva la iglesia santa!” (“Long live Christ
the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Long live the holy church!”)

Pierre is no stranger to the people of Mexico. He served as nuncio in Mexico
for nine years before being appointed as the pope’s representative in the U.S.
But he said this Mass was his first visit to Nogales, Ariz.

what seemed to be a spontaneous moment during the service, five young people
ducked under a barrier near the border fence to hold hands and pray the Our
Father with those on the other side in Mexico.

stayed at the border fence until the sign of peace, offering their hands to those
on the other side.

Zapien, music director for the Diocese of Tucson, said the special Mass was a statement
that “faith can unite people.”

original score “Misa de la Misericordia” (“Mass of Mercy”) was used in the
cross-border liturgy with choirs on both sides participating.

and music have no borders,” he said.

Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson said he was grateful for to Archbishop Pierre’s
participation in the service.

represents Pope Francis, whose heart is along the borders of our world, caring
for immigrants and refugees,” he told CNS.

nuncio’s presence is a reminder of our Holy Father’s great love for those who
are suffering, for those who are in need. So this was a very special
celebration here in ‘ambos Nogales’ (‘both Nogaleses’) as we pray together
across walls united in our prayer for one another.”

the hundreds of people that gathered for the border Mass were those that serve
the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national migrant advocacy and service

Kicanas expressed his pride in the group and in a group of young people, the
Kino Teens, who work with the border initiative.

enthusiasm, their spirit is a true blessing,” he said. “They believe in the
Lord. They believe in the church, and to have these young people participating
in our Mass here in ‘ambos Nogales’ was a true blessing.”

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Follow Wiechec on Twitter: @nancywiechec.

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